The Democrats on education.

The inner workings of Slate.
Sept. 7 2007 10:24 AM

The Great Presidential Mashup

The Democrats on education.

On Sept. 12, Slate, Yahoo!, and the Huffington Post will host the first-ever online-only presidential candidate mashup. Armed with your questions, Charlie Rose is asking the top Democratic presidential candidates about their views on health care, Iraq, education, and other issues. Their video responses will be coded and put at your disposal—empowering you to create your own custom candidate forum. Want to hear every candidate's position on the war? Hillary's positions on every issue? Obama's view on health care? Our mashup will allow you to do all of the above.

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But before we get there, there's homework to do. What have the candidates said on the issues so far? Are they changing their stories? Our cheat sheet on the previous debates will help you be the judge. Here we're offering background information on education, one of the three issues selected by readers for the Slate/Yahoo!/Huffington Post candidate mashup. Read the candidates' stances below.

Sen. Joe Biden

Sen. Joe Biden

South Carolina Debate, April 26, 2007

Change the fundamental way we educate our children. There's two things everyone knows: The smaller the class size, the better the outcome; and the better the teacher, the better the outcome.

In [the nations that lead the world in education], a teacher makes as much as an engineer. If we want the best students in the world, we need the best teachers in the world.

Washington, D.C., Debate, June 28, 2007

One of the things that we all talk about is this achievement gap. We should remind everybody that the day before a black child, a minority child, steps into the classroom, half the achievement gap already exists. That is, they already start behind. So the moment they walk into that school, they are already behind.

And that gap widens. And it widens because we do not start school earlier. We do not give single mothers in disadvantaged homes the opportunities that they need in order to know what to do to prepare their children. A mother who talks to her child on a regular basis from infancy to being a toddler, that child when it's 2 years old will have a vocabulary 300 words more than a child not talked to.

So it's simple. You've got to start off and focus on the nurturing and education of children when they're very young, particularly children from disadvantaged families. You've got to invest in starting kids in preschool at age 4. They have a 20 percent better chance of graduating when they're there. And you've got to make sure, as you go through the system, you have smaller classrooms, better teachers in the disadvantaged schools.

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

[No Child Left Behind] was a mistake. I remember talking with Paul Wellstone at the time. And quite frankly, the reason I voted for it, against my better instinct, is I have great faith in Ted Kennedy, who is so devoted to education.

But I would scrap it—or I guess, theoretically, you could do a major overhaul. But I think I'd start from the beginning.

You need better teachers. You need smaller classrooms. You need to start kids earlier. It's all basic.

My wife's been teaching for 30 years. She has her doctorate in education. She comes back and points out how it's just not working.

The bottom line here is that I would fundamentally change the way in which we approach this.

My kids did go to private schools, because right after I got elected, my wife and daughter were killed. I had two sons who survived. My sister was the head of the history department. She was helping me raise my children at Wilmington Friends School.

When it came time to go to high school when they had come through their difficulties—I'm a practicing Catholic—it was very important to me they go to a Catholic school, and they went to a Catholic school.

My kids would not have gone to that school were it not for the fact that my wife and daughter were killed and my two children were under the care of my sister who drove them to school every morning.

Sen. Hillary Clinton

Sen. Hillary Clinton

Washington, D.C., Debate, June 28, 2007

I really believe that it takes a village to raise a child and the American village has failed our children.

We have heard absolutely the right prescription. I have fought for more than 35 years for early childhood education, for more mentoring, for more parent education programs, to get our children off to a good start. I have fought to make sure that schools were fair to all children. That's the work I did in Arkansas, to try to raise the standards particularly for the poorest of our children, and most especially for minority children. And certainly in the White House years, and now in the Senate, I've continued that effort because I don't think there is a more important issue.