Here’s how the spokeswoman for out-going Education Commissioner Lucille Davy explained why New Jersey won’t make the deadline for its share of the $4.35 billion in Federal aid for school reform called “Race To The Top”:
“Since the new administration is taking over, they will be the ones who have to administer whatever the big idea is and it may be that their priorities might not mesh with ours,” Forsyth said. Race to the Top requires “a huge, comprehensive application. You’re being asked to hold people accountable, raise scores and show how you will use the data to make decisions.”
Well, that’s true: how could one posit that Christie’s DOE will want to hold people accountable, raise test scores, and use data to make decisions?
The Record, apparently the only major medium covering the story (though the Paterson Education Fund sent out an email blast), has a follow-up today in which it notes that New Jersey is one of only two states waiting for the second application round, due in June. That’s from a poll taken by the Center for Education Policy in D.C. (4 states said that hadn’t decided and 5 states didn’t respond to the survey); CEP President had this to say about N.J.’s decision to “sit on the sidelines”: “I wouldn’t wait,” he said. “If you have 39 states going at it first and only two holding back, it’s possible most of the money would be gone.”
So, why is the DOE throwing in the towel? On October 29th (5 days before the election), Davy told an audience at the NJSBA Convention in Atlantic City that the application process was on track. Here’s some guesses:
1) The application process is extremely time-consuming, too onerous a task for our overworked, 900-employee DOE.
2) The application requires buy-in from NJEA, not a particularly big fan of charter schools, merit pay, and school reform, all criteria for the competition. Bagging the application is a sloppy farewell kiss from the Corzine administration to its stalwart fans. (On the other hand, NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer told the Record that “[i]f the current administration can work that out with the new administration in time for Jan. 19, they should probably do that” because we need the money. Though that’s easy to say now that we’re not in the running for the first round.)
3) Spite. We hope not. And yet if Corzine had won, wouldn’t our application be ready as promised?
4) N.J.’s potential financial boost from RTTT, somewhere between $200 million and $400 million, is chump change compared to the expense of the political problems it would engender.
This is a running list. Feel free to add your own conjectures.