Unlikely Alliance Meets with Obama on Education

Published May 8, 2009

An unlikely trio descended upon President Obama at the White House Thursday, agreeing that the education problems facing this country are far greater than the traditional differences that divide Democrats and Republicans, African Americans and Whites.

In fact, the union – of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and the Rev. Al Sharpton – may be the most unlikely hookup since Whitney and Bobby tied the knot 16 years ago. Truth is, the two singers had a lot more in common.

But on Thursday, the shocking alliance, all members of the nonprofit Education Equality Project, agreed that it was time to move forward with the nation’s No. 1 concern: educating America’s children.

Sharpton, a confrontational civil rights leader and former Democratic presidential candidate, founded the organization with New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, who has said that "school reform is...the civil rights issue of our time." By closing the achievement gap in schools nationwide, America will become more competitive globally, and thus better able to deal economically in the long term, the group said.

"We have a crisis of inequality in this country," Sharpton said after the Oval Office meeting with Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "Fifty-five years after Brown v. Board of Education there's still a difference in how students get up in the morning and go to school."

Gingrich, the former conservative House Speaker from Georgia and regular opponent of Democratic leadership, said he'll work with anyone who commits to "putting children first, putting learning first and getting the job done in the next two or three years."

Sharpton, who has railed against Black high school dropout rates, and low employment and opportunities for African Americans, reportedly called for the meeting with Obama, who has made the chasm in achievement one of his top priorities. Obama has said he will hold public school teachers more accountable for student achievement and allow more charter schools to try innovative approaches to learning.

Following the meeting between Obama and the education alliance, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama "believes and will take steps to do what's right to improve our education system, not based on any political ideology or any particular interest group."

Written by BET.com Staff

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