The Record reports that as of yesterday 292 districts out of our 658 districts and charters had sent back their Memoranda of Understanding, signifying that they will be part of NJ’s Race To The Top application. 378 districts and charters signed our first application, but the DOE keeps extending the deadline (originally yesterday) hoping for a better outcome. In addition, soon-to-be-ex-Deputy Commissioner Willa Spicer sent out a memo on May 20th to districts and local NJEA presidents promising that each district that signed off would, at minimum, receive $100,000 if we win the federal competition.
If New Jersey wins $400 million, NJDOE will offer a minimum of $100,000 to ALL districts that sign the MOU, in addition to the funds going directly to Title I districts. (These monies will come from the state's portion of the grant, as necessary.)(Emphasis her own.)
New Jersey School Boards Association has sent Comm. Schundler a letter of endorsement, stating that it believes that “the grant application represents our state’s commitment to genuine education reform.” NJEA’s support? Unlikely, though Schundler says he’s optimistic. Yet NJEA instructed its local units to not sign our first application and the second proposal is far more specific regarding merit pay, tying teacher evaluations to student academic growth, reforming tenure, and closing chronically failing schools. NJEA Spokesman Steve Baker told The Record,"There are still significant areas of concern remaining. Nobody has seen the entire application they're being asked to sign off on."
True enough. The full application has not been released yet. Maybe the DOE is hoping that incoming Deputy Commissioner Andy Smarick will do a quick rewrite.
Nationally, the list of drop-outs from the competition is growing. Politics K-12 says that Minnesota, Kansas, Indiana, West Virginia, Vermont, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming are out. Unlikely to apply are Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, and Virginia. Obviously, Delaware and Tennessee, the two first-round winners, sit out this one. Of course, Texas and Alaska are non-players.And Massachusetts, one of our highest-achieving states with curricula to die for, may drop out also. Boston’s NPR station, WBUR, (hat tip Politics K-12) reports, according to Ed. Commissioner Mitchell Chester, MA may not reapply because it lost points on the first round for not committing to the national common core standards and that this was “maddening” because the standards were not yet ready for review. Also, one of its largest teacher unions won’t sign.
So that leaves only 33 states left in the competition. Does that up our chances? Might. Unfortunately Senate Resolution 102, approved last Thursday (see post here), weakly “expresses support” for our RTTT application, yet is practically a sin of omission, semaphoring to the Feds that our Legislature has no intention of amending state statutes necessary to implement the DOE’s proposal. In other words, we can propose all sorts of innovative solutions to NJ’s inequitable and unsustainable public school system, but if our balls-challenged Legislature won’t pass the necessary legislation than we’re stuck. And so are our urban kids warehoused in chronically failing schools.
Labels: DOE, RTTT, school boards, Schundler