[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/05/07/art.gingrichsharpton0507.gi.jpg caption="Newt Gingrich and Al Sharpton visited the White House Thursday to meet with the president about education."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Call it an instance of strange political bedfellows.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Georgia, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton met with President Obama at the White House Thursday to discuss education.
"I think this is an issue that should bring all Americans together," Gingrich said after the meeting. "I think that education should be the first civil right of the 21st century and I think we have to move forward from No Child Left Behind towards helping every American get ahead."
Gingrich, who is credited with the 1994 Republican Revolution, also praised the new Democratic president's policies on education.
"I think this president has shown courage, during the primaries when it was difficult," said Gingrich. "He stood out for charter schools. He has made clear his commitment to lifting the cap on charter schools. He has made clear his belief in accountability. And, I think as Americans, we can reach beyond Democrat and Republican, we can reach beyond liberal and conservative."
For Sharpton, a candidate in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary, education is a civil rights issue.
"[W]e have a crisis of inequality in this country with education," he said. "Fifty-five years after Brown vs. The Board of Education, there is still a difference in how students get up in the morning and go to school. Some are treated differently, some are funded differently, some face different principals, different teachers. There is a difference in the quality of education."
And, like Gingrich, Sharpton said that there was a bipartisan commitment to improve education.
"And we are committed across our political and ideological lines . . . . We may not agree on certain specific issues, but there must be a commitment in this country for equal education for all American young people," Sharpton said.