“I sleep with a teacher every night,” said Barack Obama’s running mate Joe Biden in a Democratic primary debate in February 2007. He was talking about his wife, Jill Biden, a former high school English teacher. Has this relationship provided Biden with intimate knowledge of education issues? You be the judge.
At OnTheIssues, a quick look at excerpts from speeches and debates shows Biden consistently in support of increasing teacher pay to make the profession more appealing to top undergrads. In considering merit pay, he seems to understand teachers’ concerns about being evaluated fairly by administrators. And he thinks the solution to the racial and economic achievement gap is to improve early childhood education, lower class sizes and provide the best teachers to disadvantaged students.
His voting record shows yes votes for many education spending measures, including $52 million for 21st century community learning centers; $11 billion shifted from corporate tax loopholes to student loan forgiveness for math and science teachers, increased Pell Grant scholarships, and a variety of education programs; and $250 billion from 2001 tax cuts used instead for education. He also voted to direct federal funding towards helping states recruit and train more teachers and create assessment systems, rather than funding private tutors for students at under-performing schools.
Biden voted no on a school voucher program for Washington, D.C., although Eduwonk guestblogger Virginia Walden Ford, a McCain advisor, recalls him considering the benefits of vouchers back in the nineties.
And though he voted for NCLB in 2001, Biden said in debates that his vote was a mistake; now, he supports an overhaul or scrapping the law altogether.
Unveiling his education plan during his primary campaign, he said, “The essence of No Child Left Behind is how to measure success. What I’m talking about today is how to promote success.” Key features of that plan were two years of high-quality preschool for all, making college more affordable, and hiring more teachers in order to reduce class sizes. He also supported paying teachers bonuses for teaching in high-needs schools and for staying in a school for at least 5 years.
Biden’s own summary of his stance on education is available at his Senate homepage.