Newark schools stand-off continues, as $30 million deadline passes

By Seth Augenstein/The Star-Ledger
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on October 03, 2013

Joseph Del Grosso, Newark Teachers' Union President, and Cami Anderson, the Newark Schools Superintendent, appear together in an October 2012 photo. The union and the district are in a $30-million stand-off over a federal Race to the Top application.


NEWARK — The train's leaving the station - literally.

As the Race to the Top application deadline to apply for $30 million in grants passed at noon today, the divide between the city’s teachers’ union and the school district’s administration remains unresolved.

Joseph Del Grosso, the Newark Teachers’ Union president, maintained this morning that he would not sign an application because he was not asked for his input until Tuesday — and even referred to the money as "millions of dollars of stupidity" that won't trickle down to the classroom.

“To me it is wasteful spending – it doesn’t change any of the crux of the problem,” Del Grosso said. “Very little of it was earmarked to go into classrooms.”

Newark school officials — who had bought a noon Amtrak ticket to be able to hand-deliver the application in Washington D.C. by 4 p.m. — are livid.

"This isn't a standoff — this is a hijacking," said Matthew Frankel, a district spokesman.

Frankel said Del Grosso is withholding his signature on the 200-plus-page document because of political motivations – and comes just as the district seemed primed to get the coveted funding for the first time.

“At the end of the day, we’re looking at $30 million that the Newark schools aren’t going to get,” Frankel said.

Started in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Education, "Race To The Top" is a competitive federal education reform program that rewards school districts based on student performance, school policies and turning around educational institutions that are performing poorly. The program previously awarded funds on a state-by-state basis, but began accepting applications from individual districts last year.

Newark applied for the grant money last year, but was eliminated in the final round, Frankel said. That application, which Del Grosso signed off on, was similar to this year’s proposal, he added.

Del Grosso said he was given the application earlier this week, without explanation. Frankel said the district had tried to meet with the union president several times, and each meeting was canceled – a charge the Del Grosso denies.

The application wasn’t perfect – but the state-run district’s school-advisory board still voted for the money, said Antoinette Baskerville-Richardson, the board’s president.

“ State District Superintendent Cami Anderson’s Race to the Top Application is not the one I would have written,” the president said, in a short statement. “ However, it can potentially bring more resources into the district, which is why the board did not oppose the application.”

The district is still considering attempting to electronically deliver the application by 4 p.m., Frankel said.

But Del Grosso said he's not signing it.

“Sometimes taking federal money is not the right thing to do… we have enough consultants,” Del Grosso added.

The "consultants" are really non-profit agreements required by the application process, Frankel contends.

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