Northam, Perriello vie for education association endorsement | Politics

When Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam and former U.S. Rep. Tom Perriello spoke at a Virginia Education Association forum Thursday in Roanoke, their policy goals for teachers and schools were nearly identical.

The candidates’ differences were subtle, but Perriello was quick to reference Democrats’ fight against President Donald Trump and his administration in many of his answers. Northam kept more of his focus on issues within the commonwealth .

Northam and Perriello touted public education as their top priority should they make it to the governor’s mansion. Both candidates agreed lawmakers should spend more time interacting with teachers and support staff before writing education laws and schools funding.

Northam and Perriello also argued for teacher raises, though the latter mentioned those could be even more essential in underserved parts of the commonwealth.

The gubernatorial hopefuls were quick to decry diverting public education funds to private and charter schools. Both proposed increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 and hour to $15 an hour so support staff like cafeteria workers, bus drivers and instructional assistants can be closer to earning a living wage.

But it was in the nuances of their 20-minute question-and-answer sessions that the candidates distinguished themselves.

The education association will formally endorse one of the two candidates this weekend, and held the forum so delegates could assess whom to select.

The group of educational professionals also invited Republican front-runner Ed Gillespie, the only other gubernatorial candidate to complete the association’s questionnaire, to the conference, but he declined.

Northam vowed to be a “brick wall” against funneling state funding away from public schools to private and charter schools, as many in public education fear Trump’s…

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