How important is NJEA support for NJ’s second Race To The Top application for up to $400 million in federal school aid? Many states, including NJ, have assumed that successfully soliciting local union presidents’ signatures on Memoranda of Understanding is the be-all and end-all for competitive proposals. Yet in the last few days Ed Sec Arne Duncan seems to be suggesting otherwise. First there was his comment in the Wall St. Journal on Monday that “watered-down proposals won’t win” and his warning that states shouldn’t weaken reforms just to win support from unions. And Edweek does the math: there’s 500 points available for grading state applications and only 20 points “have anything to do with district, or to a lesser extent, union support.”
In addition, the pool is getting smaller. According to Andy Smarick over at Flypaper, four states will now officially not compete – Arkansas, Indiana, Texas, and Vermont; odds are high that Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska will drop out; and it’s looking likely that Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, and West Virginia will be next. Whether this all proves that Woody Allen was right about success being all about showing up (as Smarick quips) or whether everyone is just plain tuckered out, this is good news for NJ’s prospects. After all, there’s nothing to stop us from putting together a truly reform-minded proposal if there’s no worries about NJEA buy-in. In addition, our (unprecedented?) education upheaval – both politically and fiscally – creates a fertile soil for reform. There’s nothing like discontent for breeding change.