Education Secretary Arne Duncan invited an odd pair of allies to classrooms in this city to help tout his multibillion-dollar bid to shake up the country’s education system: the liberal Rev. Al Sharpton and the conservative former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
“These two guys don’t agree on 96% of everything else, but they do agree on the need for dramatic educational reform,” Mr. Duncan said.
As the Obama administration forges ahead with the most ambitious federal intervention in education in decades, Mr. Duncan, the former Chicago schools superintendent, needs whatever political support he can get.
The administration plans in just months to distribute $4.3 billion under its new Race to the Top program to help states set new testing standards, boost teacher quality and help rescue or close thousands of the country’s worst-performing schools.
The plan has come under fire from powerful teachers unions, which were big backers of President Barack Obama during last year’s campaign but are resistant to altering rules for hiring and firing teachers. Some conservatives, meanwhile, are wary of expanding Washington’s grip on local school systems.