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Sharpton: Union has given him more support than anyone

At an event with Chancellor Joel Klein and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today, the Rev. Al Sharpton turned his attention instead to another education activist in the room. “Nobody’s supported us more financially than Randi Weingarten,” he declared, speaking at a convention of the education group he runs with Klein.

Sharpton then eyed Weingarten, the union president who was sitting in the audience, and ushered her onto the stage he was sharing with Duncan, Klein, and the local radio personality James Mtume. Weingarten stepped away from her spot in the audience and joined the men on the panel. Weingarten has had a warm relationship with Duncan so far, but she has vocally opposed the Sharpton and Klein’s Education Equality Project, signing onto a rival effort instead.

UPDATE: Weingarten told the Times reports that the union has given about $10,000 a year to Sharpton over the last eight years.

The remarks came one day after the Daily News reported that he accepted a $50,000 $500,000 donation before working with Klein on the project that won them the title of “odd couple.” Sharpton had kicked off the day, the first in a two-day convention his and Klein’s group is throwing, with a warning. “I want some substantive discussion,” he said before introducing Duncan and Klein to the stage. “But if you think this is your night for Star Time at the Apollo, the Apollo is on 125th Street.”

The rest of the event contained only the barest allusion to the Daily News column, by Juan Gonzalez.

Sharpton reminded the audience of his supporters and local education wonks that the topic of the morning’s speech was national education policy, not the controversial reforms enacted by Klein in New York City. Members of the Campaign for Better Schools, which is lobbying for significant changes to mayoral control, had deposited their organization’s platform, printed on bright yellow paper, on each chair before the event began. Event organizers were sweeping the room and removing the fliers when I got there.

Members of the Parent Commission on School Governance, also outspoken critics of Klein’s, were also on hand to distribute fliers with their recommendations.

Other critics of Klein’s and Duncan’s emerged during a brief question-and-answer session after the speech. But before it began, nobody took Sharpton up on his offer for critics to let their anger out with a scream.

In the speech itself, Duncan stuck to familiar territory, outlining his administration’s favored policies and explaining how the federal stimulus funds will advance them.