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Newt Gingrich, the NCLB Broker?

In Baltimore today, former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the ultra-liberal Rev. Al Sharpton, and the Obama Administration's Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, continued their education reform road show. They visited three of the city's schools--a KIPP school, a regular old public school, and a neighborhood charter school--all serving mostly disadvantaged students, but all with state proficiency rates of more than 80 percent.

Most interesting, it seemed to me, is that the still-influential Gingrich pledged that his support of education reform will not end when the road show is over.

Speaking at the Hampstead Hill Academy, a neighborhood charter school, he said he will work with the Obama Administration to help reauthorize No Child Left Behind. Work on that is supposed to begin in earnest early next year.

Gingrich, who is publicly pondering a run for president in 2012, could be an important power-broker as the Obama Administration looks for bi-partisan support for its education reform agenda (which pretty much looks like Race to the Top.)

But is Gingrich optimistic that NCLB can be reauthorized next year, and what will it take to bring his Republican colleagues in Congress along for the ride? I asked him this during today's press conference at the end of their school visits.

He wouldn't address the timing, but did acknowledge: "I think it's going to be difficult because of the bitterness in the House." That reflects the deep partisan divides that have gripped the House as it considers sweeping legislation, like health care.

Nonetheless, he pledged to do whatever he could to help find common ground in the House and Senate. And he added that his impression from President Obama is that the issue of education--more than any other, including health care--is one in which the administration would like to move forward in a bi-partisan way.

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