Schundler Presents NJ's Race To The Top Application

Bret Schundler is taking Arne Duncan at his word. The U.S. Education Secretary told states recently that the Race to the Top competition would reward “political will, leadership, and the courage to make the best choices for students” instead of “watered-down reforms with broad buy-in." For our second try in the federal competition, NJ will bank on that commitment.
At a press conference this afternoon, the Commissioner allowed, “I would love to have NJEA’s partnership, but I don’t think we’ll get it.” So NJ will move ahead – minus teacher union support – with an application that includes the following elements:
Legislative changes on tenure law and charter authorization will wait until after June 1st. However, the Legislature will be urged to adopt a statement of principle that “the State of NJ shall make student learning the primary yardstick by which it measures districts, teachers, methodologies.” In other words, Schundler is looking for legislative buy-in if not union buy-in. How far is NJEA’s leadership from signing onto education reform? At a meeting yesterday, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian and NJEA Executive Director Vince Giordano were asked by Schundler, “can you measure student learning?” The answer: a unanimous “no.”

Other highlights from the Commissioner’s remarks:
“We have a very substantial proposal” and “a very substantial chance to win.”

We’d implement these reforms “even if there wasn’t a dollar attached. But there is $400 million dollars.”

The Obama Administration is “making it clear that unions will not have veto power over education reform in America.”

“School choice is an accountability mechanism.”

“We’re going full-out.” The buy-in from stakeholders isn’t as important as “a bold commitment to reform.”

“Will we tolerate failure forever? The Obama Administration said we should not, and moral considerations tell us we should not.”

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