News' Juan Gonzalez: Sharpton Got a $500K Present

The odd-ball marriage of Al Sharpton and schools chancellor Joel Klein -- who have been teaming up to tout their version of education reforms since last summer-- resulted in a sweet $500,000 wedding gift for Sharpton's National Action Network, reports the Daily News' indefatigable Juan Gonzalez this morning.

The fat check came from a hedge fund run by ex-schools chancellor Harold Levy and was doled out to Sharpton's group through a separate nonprofit  -- one that is pushing hard to win renewal of mayoral control of the schools.

Sharpton scored the half-mil just as he was settling a tax case, agreeing to pay back $1 million he and his organization owed the feds. (The Post reported earlier this week that the Rev's total bill was $1.8 million, and that he still owes the state another $800,000).

Sharpton told Gonzalez that he used the bread to pay the salary of top aide Charlie King, as well as to pay expenses for "promoting the new initiative with Klein." That would be the mysterious Education Equality Project that Sharpton and Klein kicked off last summer. The duo took their show on the road in July, winning endorsements from an across-the-political board mix of everyone from new education secretary Arne Duncan to John McCain and Newt Gingrich.

Duncan, Gingrich and a host of others are expected to join Mayor Bloomberg, Sharpton and Klein this week at a major conference called by the education project that starts today at the Sheraton hotel on 7th Avenue.

What might be Levy's reasons for the sudden generosity? Gonzalez reports that the former chancellor has been lobbying the city to win approvals for his Plainfield Asset Management to take OTB private and to run slot machines at Aqueduct Racetrack. (Hey, that's all good for kids, right?)

Levy insisted that shelling out the dough was his own idea and that the contribution "was not a way of currying favor with anyone."

Other than staging protests last month against the Post for a ridiculous Sean Delonas cartoon, Sharpton has been silent on key city political matters for months now. He was not heard from at all as the city council debated Bloomberg's proposal in October to overturn term limits. He has also yet to weigh in on the mayoral race.

Actually, for that matter, if the Rev ever finally got around to saying out loud that he was endorsing Barack Obama for president, it missed us.

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