The final debate before the presidential election is tonight, and though education has rarely reared its head this campaign season, educators have plenty of ideas for McCain and Obama.

Teachers responding to a poll at TeachersFirst ranked equity — “a way to fund America’s schools to assure equal access to adequate facilities, equipment, and materials” — as a top priority, a view echoed by principal George Wood in his letter to the next president. Wood also lists attention to teacher quality, expanded after-school programs, and increased social services as priorities.

But educators have more to offer than policy ideas, says EdWeek commentator Lew Smith, who studied 54 successful school principals. He thinks good principals could teach the candidates something about leadership:

Regardless of their particular circumstances, these successful principals shared nine important characteristics: They were focused, visionary, change-sensitive, and courageous; their management style was empowering, relational, and strategic; and their personal traits made each one both a learner and a communicator.

Even if talk of education gets drowned out by economic worries tonight, the candidates’ education advisers will debate next Tuesday at Teachers College. Watch it live at EdWeek or read about it here at GothamSchools.