WASHINGTON (CNN) - Billionaire philanthropists Bill Gates and Eli Broad are using the backdrop of the first presidential debate of the season to call on this year's crop of White House hopefuls to put education issues at the top of their campaign agendas.
The two men are joining forces to bankroll through their foundations a $60 million public awareness campaign called "ED in '08" designed to focus the candidates' attention and encourage debate on ways to improve education standards, provide more effective teacher training, and increase the resources and support available to students. The initiative was launched Wednesday in South Carolina, where the Democratic presidential candidates will participate in their first debate Thursday night.
"We all must demand that candidates and our leaders share their opinions and policies on how our country will offer all young people strong American schools," said Gates, the founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, in a written statement.
Broad, a former real estate and insurance mogul, now heads the Broad Foundation, which focuses on improving public education in the nation's urban areas.
The "ED in '08" campaign and its parent organization, "Strong American Schools," will not support or oppose any particular candidate or party or take positions on legislation.