N.J. Districts Vying For Cut Of $4B In Federal School Funds

BOE_building_TLS-MediumNew Jersey is competing against 39 other states and the District of Columbia for a cut of $4 billion the federal government’s stimulus program is handing out to improve public schools. New Jersey potentially stands to receive as much as $400 million to invest in new data systems for educators to extensively track student performance improvement, curriculum improvements, and for overhauling poorly performing schools. Administrators and boards in nearly 400 districts and charter schools statewide support the grant program, saying they could use the funds for programs they are already doing or would like to do.

The majority of local teachers unions, including the state’s largest union, the New Jersey Education Association, did not pledge their support. NJEA officials say the program would mean more student testing, and would create long-term costs that the state cannot afford.

In a Jan. 6 news statement, NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said Race to the Top (RTTT) was “both economically and educationally unsound.”

“From an educational standpoint, it is clear from the state’s application that New Jersey would need to significantly increase the number of students tested annually and the number of tests administered to each student. . . . The cost of these additional tests could far outstrip the $100 million in annual RTTT funding we are seeking. And after those four years of RTTT funding are gone, then who will pay for the testing?” Keshishian said.

Previous reports had also claimed that the NJEA was not supporting the program due to a stipulation that would tie teacher raises to student performance.

The purpose of the grant, an offshoot of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, is to improve education in four major areas:

Reworking and strengthening curriculum and standards to better prepare students for college and the workplace;

Building data systems that track each student’s progress throughout their academic career. Read full article in APP.

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