Gingrich, Bloomberg and Sharpton Pay Obama a Visit
By Scott Wilson
It's an eclectic trio, symbolic of the wide-ranging personalities, interests and ideas involved in reforming the country's public education system.
This afternoon New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, and the Rev. Al Sharpton will meet with President Obama to discuss his public education proposals and, to be sure, share some thoughts of their own.
The trio, which likely hasn't agreed on much of anything over the years, belongs to the nonprofit Education Equality Project.
Sharpton, a former U.S. senate 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."
The group's main focus? Closing the achievement gap among America's public school students, an issue bound up in race, class, money and politics.
White House aides said Sharpton asked for the meeting with Obama, who in announcing his public education reform plans two months ago listed closing the achievement gap as a priority.
The president has said he wants to do so in part by holding public school teachers more accountable for student achievement, something that may pit him against teacher's unions at some point, and allow more charter schools to emerge and experiment.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan will also be attending today's meeting. As a result of the stimulus plan that Congress approved in February, Duncan's education department has an additional $100 billion to distribute to public schools, universities and early childhood development programs -- resources that Obama's chief of staff Rahm Emanuel has said "come with a bow tied around them that says 'reform.'"
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