Sunday Leftovers

RTTT Update: About half of N.J.'s public schools sent their Memoranda of Understanding in on Thursday for a shot at Race To The Top federal funds: 361 schools districts out of 591 and 67 charters, almost all of them. However, only 20 union presidents out of 591 signed on the dotted line, mainly because of concerns about tying compensation to teacher competency. From The Record:
The New Jersey Education Association fought the state's proposal, saying it has serious flaws, including its push for using student test scores as one of the measures for determining teachers' pay and tenure. The union's disapproval is expected to hurt the state's chances of winning the money because the Obama administration has made community support a key factor in awarding grants.
Gaze enviously over the river to Pennsylvania for a useful comparison where, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, "Pennsylvania's bid to get up to $400 million in federal stimulus money to boost public education has been significantly improved with a pledge by Philadelphia's teachers union to help implement the comprehensive reform plan and with its endorsement by the state's largest teachers union."

And in an editorial in Asbury Park Press Lucille Davy makes a final plea to districts, union heads, and superintendents to send in their MOU's.

Overview of NCLB: Worth reading from The Record, an analysis of the 2002 federal legislation. From Mike Yaple, spokesman of NJSBA: "Like it or not, in many people's eyes, NCLB made students' test scores the benchmark of a school's success."

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Corzine has informed local school districts that if surplus accounts contain more than 2% of an annual budget (often a measure of good fiscal management and ability to mitigate increases in local tax rates), the State may seize the money to make up shortfalls in state school aid to other districts. Courier-Post.

Looking for Quarters Under the Couch: West Windsor/Plainsboro, a wealthy Mercer County district, may privatize custodial services to save money.

Courier-Post Pinpoints Corzine's Fatal Flaw:
But under Corzine there were not major, sweeping changes. The system that benefits so many tens of thousands of public workers across the state was never shaken up as it needed to be for the sake of overburdened taxpayers. There was not a true, concerted attempt to lower property taxes, to clean up government corruption, to stop pay to play, to make government more efficient, to get kids out of failing urban schools or to negotiate a labor deal with state workers that really put taxpayers' interests ahead of state workers.
New Jersey Gets Mixed Test Results on the annual Quality Counts 2010 report released by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. According to the Press of Atlantic City, we did great in school financing and student achievement but lousy in "the difference between the top spending and lowest-spending districts, with an $8,250 difference" and also faltered in the category of "teacher profession," which measures "such issues as whether student achievement is linked to teacher evaluations, and whether there are incentives for teachers to work with under-achieving students."

Call it the "Wasser Bill": The Legislature approved a bill 76-0 that is supposed to stop school districts from having to pay tuition and bonuses to administrators who receive bogus degrees from diploma mills. Here's the text of Bill S-2127/A-3671.