Diegnan Can't Have it Both Ways: Charter Schools and RTTT

Here’s an irony for this balmy Thursday. In today’s NJ Spotlight Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan derides the Christie Administration’s failed bid for federal Race To The Top funds in light of the announcement from the US DOE that another $200 million is up for grabs among runners-up, including New Jersey. Race to the Top is a school reform competition that awards grants to states with well-wrought strategies to address achievement gaps, enhance overall school performance, and implement initiatives intended to improve teacher quality and expand school choice. We lost out on the big money (not once, but twice) and now we have a shot at a comparably meager yet still significant $50 million.

So here’s Assembly Diegnan:
"Gov. Chris Christie’s administration completely mishandled their last application, costing New Jersey $400 million in school aid," said Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex). "Because of their follies, we are now limited to receiving $10 million to $50 million in this latest round of funding."

"The Christie administration needs to take advantage of this new opportunity and do it right this time," added Diegnan.
Uh, right. Except that the Assemblyman has taken on the mantle of anti-reformer by sponsoring a bill that would effectively kill off new charter schools. (See my analysis here and here.) And Race To The Top zeroes in on charter school expansion as a criterion for successful proposals. Here’s our application for the last round; charter school questions are in Section F. We generally received high marks because the reviewers considered NJ a friendly environment for autonomous public schools (charters).

In effect, the passage of Assemblyman Diegnan’s bill will undermine the competitiveness of our application for RTTT money. Enacting obstacles – like a public vote -- to charter school expansion is a sure-fire loser in this school funding arena.

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