Democratic presidential candidates talk education at forum in Pittsburgh

Democratic presidential candidates talk education at forum in Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH — Nearly every major presidential candidate on the Democratic side was in Pittsburgh on Saturday at the convention center talking about an issue some feel has been overlooked: education.

Seven of the Democratic presidential candidates spoke directly to more than 1,000 educators and students about public education as part of a forum hosted by MSNBC at the convention center downtown.

“So much of educational success depends on things like housing, things like health, things like nutrition, things like safety,” South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said.

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The topics ranged from K-12 funding to teachers’ pay and affordable college.

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“You're hearing all of this discussion today about free college. The reality is I think people want to know that when a kid graduates from high school, they can earn that living wage,” Sen. Michael Bennet, of Colorado, said.

“If you're from a low-income neighborhood you get low-income schools. If you're from a high-income neighborhood you get high-income schools. That just can't be right, that's not fair. That's literally legislating inequality going forward,” philanthropist Tom Steyer said.

Organizers say they chose Pittsburgh to host the forum for convenience for the candidates and because Pennsylvania is a critical battleground state.

But National Education Association President Lily Eskesen Garcia says the forum was about more than just welcoming the candidates.

“We want to make sure that all of my students have what they need to succeed, no matter what their ZIP code, no matter what their parents’ financial status. That's what I want to hear from these presidential candidates,” Garcia said.

For some of these candidates, it was their first time in Western Pennsylvania, but it likely won’t be their last. Pennsylvania is a critical battleground state, which means they will be making plenty of visits here before the April 2020 primary.

The Republican National Committee released a statement about Saturday’s education forum saying:

“While Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Pete Buttigieg campaign on socialist policies that will harm hardworking Pennsylvanians, President Trump continues to fight for Americans with policies that have delivered a stronger economy and a better trader deal to the state.”

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