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Arne Joins the Al and Newt Education Equality Project Show

By Alyson Klein — August 13, 2009 2 min read

If you were in Minnesota for the Republican convention last year or in D.C, during the inauguration you may have been lucky enough to catch the Al and Newt Education Equality Project Show.

In case you missed it, it basically involves Rev. Al Sharpton and former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich high-fiving and fist-bumping and telling everyone about how their similarities on education policy transcend their differences on... just about everything else. They’re pro-charter, pro-merit pay, pro-accountability, and they play well with all sorts of audiences.

At the convention, a room full of conservative Republican delegates gave Sharpton a standing ovation, while, during the inauguration festivities, a crowd at an inner-city high school in majority black and Democratic D.C. took cell phone pictures of Gingrich (although he kinda got upstaged by another Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona).

Well, now U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is hopping on the tour.

Duncan, Sharpton, and Gingrich will visit Philadelphia in September and Baltimore, and New Orleans in November. Those cities were chosen in part because of their efforts on education reforms that the administration would like to see duplicated elsewhere. (For example, New Orleans has been a welcoming place for charters.) The tour may also include a rural site, to be finalized later.

Probably not surprisingly, the superintendents in all three cities have joined up with the Education Equality Project, which was founded by Sharpton and NYC schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

As you probably remember, the group released a “No Excuses” blueprint for education redesign during the presidential campaign that was often compared to another education manifesto, put out by the Bolder, Broader Coalition.

The two documents, which sucked up a lot of the K-12 oxygen during the campaign, were said to epitomize the differences within the Democratic party on education. McCain signed onto the Education Equality Project’s manifesto, while President Barack Obama said he agreed with both, but signed neither.

Later, Duncan was seen as a compromise choice for secretary, in part because he signed both documents. But then, Duncan showed up at the Equality Project’s inauguration event. And, since he became secretary, some Bolder, Broader folks say he’s been trending towards that line of thinking.

So this tour brings up a bunch of questions: Does it mean Duncan is officially on the EEP’s team? Or does he still see these agendas as complementary (as he told me when he first took office)? And also, should there be some sort of T-shirt for the Arne, Newt, and Al Tour?

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