Saturday, December 14, 2019 • 9:00am ET
David L. Lawrence Convention Center • Pittsburgh, PA • Streaming Online
The Schott Foundation and eleven other public education groups, including community groups, education unions, and civil rights organizations, hosted top Democratic presidential candidates at the “Public Education Forum 2020: Equity and Justice for All” on Saturday, Dec. 14, at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. MSNBC moderated and livestreamed the forum focused on public education issues.
Seven major Democratic candidates participated: Sen. Michael Bennet, Vice President Joe Biden, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Tom Steyer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Topics included school investment, student services, special education, student debt and teaching conditions, as well as key education equity and justice issues facing America’s students and public schools.
The forum welcomed more than 1,000 educators, students, parents and community members to a discussion with the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates about their plans for K-12 and higher education. Each candidate provided opening remarks and answered questions from moderators, forum attendees and others from across the country who submitted questions.
Setting the Stage
At the start of the day, speakers rallied the audience and reminded us all what we're fighting for. Opening speakers included:
- Nina Esposito-Visgitis, President of the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers
- Angel Gober, Western PA Director of One Pennsylvania
- Kendra Brooks, Philadelphia City Council member
- Dr. John H. Jackson, President & CEO, Schott Foundation for Public Education
- Keron Blair, National Co-Director, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools
- Max Arias, Executive Director, SEIU Local 99
- Evelyn Davis-West, teacher and member, Chicago Teachers Union
The opening panel laid the groundwork of what advocates were looking to hear from the candidates. The discussion featured AFT President Randi Weingarten, NEA President Lily Eskelsen García, NAACP President Derrick Johnson, and Journey for Justice Alliance National Director Jitu Brown.
Highlights from the opening events:
Grassroots advocates were pivotal in the behind-the-scenes organizing behind the event, but they also spent time in front of the camera at the forum, asking important questions of the candidates.
Irene Robinson is also one of the parents who went on an extended — and successful — hunger strike to save their neighborhood public school in Chicago from being closed by then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.
Watch the full forum
Forum sponsors include:
- Alliance for Educational Justice
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
- American Federation of Teachers
- Center for Popular Democracy Action
- Journey for Justice Alliance
- National Education Association
- Network for Public Education Action
- Opportunity to Learn Action Fund
- Schott Foundation for Public Education
- Service Employees International Union
- Voto Latino
Per MSNBC's agreement, all presidential candidates who either previously qualified for the October debate or currently hold statewide office were invited to attend.