Assemblywoman Nellie Pou, chairwoman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, has issued a “multimedia package” regarding the Legislature’s investigation into our Race To The Top loss. Video, audio, and transcript are available for her opening remarks, which begins thus:
As we all know, New Jersey was not among the states chosen to receive funding from the federal Race to the Top education program because of the administration's failure to properly complete the application.
This was a great disappointment, especially considering how the effort to receive this money was initially a cooperative bid by so many involved in education in New Jersey, ranging from the teachers to the Legislature and the state Department of Education.
"The result of this mistake -- New Jersey lost out on $400 million when teachers are losing their jobs, property taxes are soaring and the quality of education is at risk.
#Tweak #1: we didn’t lose RTTT because of the a “failure to properly complete the application.” We lost because our data system stinks (how about some investigation into why NJ SMART, six years into implementation, is still unable to perform basic accountability functions?) and we had minimal buy-in from union presidents, school boards, and superintendents.
Tweak#2: The $400 million we lost would not have been used to pay teacher salaries or to mitigate anyone's property tax burden. The money would have been earmarked for education reform. Half would have stayed at the DOE; half would have gone to the individual districts that signed Memoranda of Understanding for specific programs that piloted merit pay, value-added teacher evaluations, and different approaches to students demonstrating poor achievement.
Tweak #3: “Taxpayers will now pay the price.” The bulk of school property taxes go to payroll and benefits. RTTT money has no impact on this primary driver of school costs.