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Public Education Forum Attracts Seven Democratic Presidential Candidates To Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Pittsburgh hosted a unique presidential forum on Saturday.

It was not a debate, but a chance for the Democratic presidential candidates to share their views on public education.

The day-long Public Education Forum allowed seven Democrats to answer questions from a diverse audience.

Over a thousand public school supporters heard from Democratic presidential candidates at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

"I am the son of two educators, and I am married to a teacher who is literally going to be grading everything I say today," declared Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

"We have to massively increase what we pay teachers in this country," said U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, a former Denver school superintendent.

"The idea that cutting education is cutting expense is the stupidest idea that I have ever heard," noted California billionaire Tom Steyer.

Some candidates had a way to pay for better education.

"It's time for a wealth tax in America. This is a two-cent tax on the top one-tenth of one percent," said U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Others shared surprising snippets about their past.

"I taught at at-risk schools when I was going through law school, and I was a bus driver," said former Vice President Joe Biden. "And by the way, bus drivers and the folks in the cafeteria know a hell of a lot about what's going on."

WATCH: Charter School Protesters Gather Outside Of Education Forum

And there was some politics, too.

"You win big when you win states like Pennsylvania big that we lost in that last election," noted U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who made a side trip to support UPMC workers before addressing the forum, emphasized unity.

"Together we are going to create the strongest possible public school system in the world," said Sanders.

Two education unions hailed the first-of-its-kind event.

"To make sure that all kids have what they need, and that's what this forum is mostly focused on. Two words -- all students," Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

And Pittsburgh was the best place for this forum, they said.

"It has both Mr. Rogers and hardscrabble steel. It is the place that is really representative of the country," added Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.

After six hours of listening to Democratic presidential candidates, did it make a difference?

Well, one thing's for sure.

Education is now front and center in the race for the Democratic nomination for president.

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