PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The David L. Lawrence Convention Center is empty now.
But more than 1,100 people are expected Saturday at the Public Education Forum 2020, where eight Democratic presidential candidates are expected to drop by throughout the day.
“We’re really excited. We’ve had a lot of interest. We’re really proud to bring this event to Pittsburgh, a historic event, the first one, and it’s here in our great city,” says Nina Esposito-Visgitis, president of the local Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers.
The forum, sponsored by the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, and the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools and its member organizations, is all about education.
She is not surprised Pittsburgh was selected as the host city.
“It says something about our education here in Pittsburgh. And it says something about the collaboration that we’ve been able to forge here in Pittsburgh working together, which is a hallmark of our work here in Pittsburgh,’ Esposito-Visgitis said.
Esposito-Visgitis hopes the candidates will take something away from Pittsburgh, too.
“I hope they hear the importance of collaboration, number one, the importance of listening to educators and families and parents when it comes to education policy,” she told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
Members of One Pennsylvania, part of the Alliance to Reclaim our Schools, will attend in force, says its Western PA director Angel Gober.
“This is a historic moment for us. Education, as well as other issues like housing, has been definitely left on the back-burner in most of these national conversations around presidential candidates and elections. So we are really super excited to be the first-ever,” says Gober.
WATCH: KDKA’s Jon Delano Reports Live On The Education Forum.
The event, which is invitation only, will allow the Democratic candidates, who some say often sound alike on education, to make an impression on potential voters.
“It’s probably going to be my deciding factor on which way I vote for the primaries,” says Valerie Allman, a Troy Hill parent who will be attending. “One blinding blank spot in most of the campaigns and most of the platforms is what’s going on with kids before they go to college.”
Gober hopes parents and teachers should be able to engage the candidates.
“There will be a lot of teachers in the room, a lot of Pittsburgh public school parents, and we’re actually looking to engage with candidates directly on our issues,” Gober said.
Allegheny County Republican Party chair Sam DeMarco says he has no problem with a Democratic event here.
“I’m excited to have them go on stage and tell the world exactly what their views are on education because we believe that will drive even more Democrats to the Republican Party as they see how extreme these folks are,” says DeMarco.
On Friday, DeMarco unveiled a new local ad here portraying Democrats as socialists.
GOP Political Ad: “There was a time when Democrats made sense. They built things. They defended our values. They had room for everybody. Now they’re talking socialism.”
Democrats say that’s a gross generalization.
Obviously, voters can decide for themselves who is a socialist and who is not.
Many of the candidates coming here – Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bennet – are just dropping in and heading back out.
But some are scheduling local events on Saturday.
KDKA political editor Jon Delano will attend the forum all day – and will have complete coverage of what the candidates say on KDKA News on Saturday evening.