Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner met for the first time Friday in the 2014 campaign for Illinois governor.
The political rivals discussed education policy before members of the Illinois Education Association in Chicago.
Quinn, a Chicago Democrat seeking his second full term as governor, called Rauner "the biggest threat to public education in the state of Illinois."
Rauner supports non-union charter schools, vouchers and moving public employees from pensions to 401K-style retirement funds.
The Winnetka businessman says Quinn has broken his promises to teachers, students and taxpayers.
Rauner says Quinn cut education funding and approved a pension overhaul that cut benefits for teachers and retirees.
The crowd was comprised of more than 1,000 educators and support staff, a union both men would love to have in their corner.
"You are the most important profession in our society," Rauner told the crowd, prompting applause. "You hold the future of America in your hands every day."
The Illinois Education Association is suing Quinn and other lawmakers over cuts to their pensions.
"I know everyone here doesn't agree with me, I know that, but I made a decision, and we'll let the courts decide whether it was the right decision or not," Quinn said.
The group endorsed State Sen. Kirk Dillard in the Republican primary.