The Democrats on education.

The Democrats on education.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

But I also believe we cannot separate the education part from the economic part. There is still discrimination in the workplace. There are still people who are turned down and turned away who have qualifications and skills that should make them employable. So this is a broader issue that we have to address.

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

Chelsea went to public schools, kindergarten through eighth grade, until we moved to Washington. And then I was advised, and it was, unfortunately, good advice, that if she were to go to a public school, the press would never leave her alone, because it's a public school. So I had to make a very difficult decision.

Sen. Chris Dodd

Sen. Chris Dodd

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

This evening there'll be many subjects that'll be raised, and important ones. None is more important, in my view, than the issue of education. Whether or not from the earliest education opportunity to the highest level of education opportunity, this is the key to equal access to our society. It is something that can never be taken away from you if you get it. To say today that you're going to exclude race as a means of allowing for the diversity in our communities is a major step backwards. And as president of the United States, I would use whatever tool is available to me to see to it that we reverse this decision today, get back on the track to see to it that our country once again will identify with the identity of unity as a nation, blind, if you will, to the racial distinctions in our society. That's the only way we're going to deal with the new frontiers of the 21st century. The barrios, the ghettos, and the reservations of our society. That's what I stand for, that's what we'll achieve as a Democratic administration.

As I said at the outset on the first question, I don't believe there's any other issue as important as this one we'll discuss this evening, as education. There's a lot of good talk here, and I admire the fact that my colleagues here and candidates all care deeply about this issue. I stand before you as a candidate. We have to make a decision about, who is our best candidate to win the presidency in 2008?

For 26 years, through five terms in the United States Senate, I have dedicated myself to this issue. I'm very proud of the fact that Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund has come to me over and over again, and proud to have authored the legislation to deal with the whole child, that authored the first child-care legislation in this country, to begin in the earliest days to make sure that parents have the assurance that there will be a quality place for their child to be, and an affordable place, an available place, and then to begin with early childhood education, to see to it that we'd have a good Head Start program.

I'm proud of the fact that I was called the Senator of the Decade by National Head Start Association. I have walked the walk on these issues; I am committed to these issues. There's nothing that will be a higher priority to me as president of the United States than to see to it that America's children, from the earliest days of their arrival, certainly through the upper education branches of our educational system, have the equal opportunity.

None of us here can guarantee success—but we have an obligation to guarantee an opportunity to that success. The key to that door is the education of the American child.

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

My daughter goes to the public school as a preschool—kindergarten. But I want to come back to the No Child Left Behind.

Because I think remedying this—and I understand the applause here—accountability is very important. This is one country—we've got to have the best-prepared generation of Americans that we've ever produced in our educational system. No other issue, in my view, is as important as this one here.

And getting the No Child Left Behind law right is where we ought to focus our attention here so that we have resources coming back to our states. You measure growth in a child. You invest in failing schools. But I would not scrap it entirely. Accountability is very important in this country. We ought not to abandon that idea.

Sen. John Edwards

Sen. John Edwards

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

I think it's true that we need to pay teachers better. I think we ought to actually provide incentive pay to get our best teachers in the inner-city schools and into poor rural areas where they're needed the most. But it goes beyond that. We also have to make work pay for young men who are graduating from high school, the very group that you're describing, which means we're going to have to do a whole group of things. We need to significantly raise the minimum wage. We need to strengthen the right to organize. And we need to help low-income families save so they're not prey to predatory lenders that are taking advantage of them today.

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

I've had four children, and all of them have gone to public school. I've got two kids ... who are actually here with me in Charleston tonight, two kids, Emma Claire and Jack, just finished the third grade in public school in North Carolina, and Jack just finished the first grade in public school in North Carolina.

Sen. Mike Gravel

Sen. Mike Gravel

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

[Asked about the link between education and poverty and the inequities that keep many black families from prospering] I think we can cut a little more than 15 percent, very much so. Stop and think what the opportunity costs—now, you have heard these nostrums before. I've been watching your heads. You're nodding on all the programs. You've heard it 10 years ago, you've heard 20 years ago—why doesn't it change? The Democratic Party hasn't done appreciably better than the Republican Party in solving these problems. It has to be solved by the people, not by your leaders.

Stop and think. When he's talking about the money we're squandering—21 million Americans could have a four-year college scholarship for the money we've squandered in Iraq, 7.6 million teachers could have been hired last year if we weren't squandering this money. Now, how do you think we got into this problem? The people on this stage, like the rest of us, are all guilty and very guilty, and we should recognize that, because there is linkage!

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

My children went to public school and private school, and I'd recommend that we need a little bit of competition in our system of education. Right now, we have 30 percent of our children do not graduate from high school. That is abominable, and that is the problem of both parties.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

Rep. Dennis Kucinich

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

We need to have a policy in education which first of all is guided by certain fundamental rights. Jesse Jackson Jr. has a bill that makes having an equal opportunity for education a matter of a constitutional privilege. And with this Supreme Court ruling, it is imperative that we have a constitutional amendment guaranteeing educational opportunity equality.

Next, in the meantime, universal free kindergarten. Every child age 3, 4, and 5 should have access to full, quality day care. Eliminate those disparities that we see early on in school. Eliminate No Child Left Behind, which is aimed at testing instead of improving children's educational opportunity through language, music, and the arts. And finally, we need to take the resources away from war and military buildups and assure that every child should have a chance for a quality college education as well.

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

My daughter, Jackie, went to the Columbus public schools and got a great education. And I want to make sure that that commitment that sent her to public school is a commitment that will cause all American children to be able to go to great public schools.

Sen. Barack Obama

Sen. Barack Obama

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

Early childhood education. John [Edwards]'s exactly right, it starts from birth. And where we can get parenting counselors to go in and work with at-risk parents, it makes an enormous difference.

We've got to make sure that teachers are going to the schools that need them the most. We're going to lose a million teachers over the next decade because the baby-boom generation is retiring. And so it's absolutely critical for us to give them the incentives and the tools and the training that they need not only to become excellent teachers but to become excellent teachers where they're most needed.

We're going to have to put more money into after-school programs and provide the resources that are necessary. When you've got a bill called No Child Left Behind, you can't leave the money behind for No Child Left Behind. And unfortunately, that's what's been done.

But the most important thing is that we recognize these children as our children. The reason that we have consistently had underperformance among these children, our children, is because too many of us think it is acceptable for them not to achieve. And we have to have a mindset where we say to ourselves, every single child can learn if they're given the resources and the opportunities. And right now that's not happening. We need somebody in the White House who's going to recognize these children as our own.

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

I think the reparations we need right here in South Carolina is investment, for example, in our schools. I did a ... I did a town hall meeting in Florence, South Carolina, in an area called the "Corridor of Shame." They've got buildings that students are trying to learn in that were built right after the Civil War. And we've got teachers who are not trained to teach the subjects they're teaching and high dropout rates.

We've got to understand that there are corridors of shame all across the country. And if we make the investments and understand that those are our children, that's the kind of reparations that are really going to make a difference in America right now.

My kids have gone to the University of Chicago Lab School, a private school, because I taught there, and it was five minutes from our house. So it was the best option for our kids.

But the fact is that there are some terrific public schools in Chicago that they could be going to. The problem is, is that we don't have good schools, public schools, for all kids.

A U.S. senator can get his kid into a terrific public school. That's not the question. The question is whether or not ordinary parents, who can't work the system, are able to get their kids into a decent school, and that's what I need to fight for and will fight for as president of the United States.

Gov. Bill Richardson

Gov. Bill Richardson

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

You know, sometimes when I talk about education, and this is the first time we have talked about it in any debate, the first thing you hear is, how are you going to pay for it? Nobody asks how we're going to pay for the war. But it's important to state that improving our schools, improving education, access to education to all Americans, should be America's foremost priority. You know, I want to just state that for the record, I am for a minimum wage for teachers. The key to a good education is to pay our teachers and have accountability.

And we have to have also—we have to make sure that we deal with this achievement gap. One out of two minorities in this country, one out of two African-American, Latino kids don't make it through high school. They drop out. That has to be combatted with at-risk programs, with programs that deal with more parental involvement. We have to start early, universal preschool. We did this in New Mexico. We did this. Kids under 4—full-day kindergarten.

We have to have healthy breakfast for every child. And finally, we have to find a way to give every American access to a college education.

CNN/YouTube Debate, July 23, 2007

I would scrap it [No Child Left Behind]. It doesn't work.

It is the law. It is not just an unfunded mandate, but the one-size-fits-all doesn't work.

It doesn't emphasize teacher training. It doesn't emphasize the disabled kids.

It doesn't—English-learning kids don't get help.

The worst thing it does is it takes districts and schools that are not doing well, takes their funds away, penalizes them. If a school is not doing well, we help that school.

The last thing we need to do, relating to teachers, is the key to a good education in this country is a strong teacher. I would have a minimum wage for all our teachers, $40,000 per year.

And I would emphasize science and math.

And I would also bring, to make sure our kids that are not scoring well in science and math, 29th in the world, to unlock those minds in science and math, I would have a major federal program of art in the schools ... music, dancing, sculpture, and the arts.