The Washington Post

Will education get mentioned in the debate?

Wednesday night’s debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama is about different areas of domestic policy — but there’s one topic that isn’t specified on the program: education.

Stage is being set at the University of Denver for the first presidential debate. (David Goldman/AP)

Could education come up in the segment about the role of government? It could.

Lehrer, for example, could ask Romney about his love for using public money to pay private school tuition through vouchers. And Lehrer could ask Obama if he would accuse the Republicans of federal overreach if they had done what his Education Department did in granting states waivers from the toughest mandates of No Child Left Behind because Congress did not reauthorize it and fix its many problems.

But will education come up in the debate? Don’t hold your breath. School reform has hardly been a big topic on the campaign trail for either candidate.

But Education Secretary Arne Duncan is talking up Obama’s controversial reform policies, delivering a speech on Tuesday at the National Press Club that made a distinction between a Romney administration and a second Obama administration in terms of education. Republicans, he said, look at public education as “an expense,” he said, while “we see it as an investment.

Duncan also warned that if Romney wins, Americans can expect to see cuts in programs such as Head Start, Pell Grants and Title I because the Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, put forth a budget that calls for big education cuts.

Of course, if the Republicans and Democrats reach a budget deal, education is likely to be cut no matter who is president. And if they don’t reach a deal, it will be cut anyway.

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.


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