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New York Wins 'Race To The Top' Grant, New Jersey Doesn't

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP/1010 WINS) -- New York has won a high-stakes federal competition which means big bucks for education funding.

New York won up to $696 million in federal education funding after it made changes in its application despite initial opposition from powerful teachers' unions, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer confirmed Tuesday.

Schumer said the win shows that states making "hard choices'' will be rewarded by the federal government.

New York missed out on $700 million in the first round, but has since increased the number of charter schools and made other improvements in schools and their governance, changes that the state's politically influential teachers' unions initially blocked.

"New York's schools have made strong strides towards excellence and this grant will accelerate that progress,'' said Schumer, who had met with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan on New York's proposal. "This is great news for parents, teachers, and taxpayers across the state.''

Mayor  Bloomberg said the award would challenge New York to "do even better."

"We intend to meet that challenge and keep making NYC public schools a model for helping all of our students reach the top of their potential," Bloomberg said.

Schumer spokesman Max Young said part of the senior senator's argument to Duncan was that denying New York the grant after it made changes to its application would have a "chilling effect'' on reform movements in other states.

The grant will be critical during a fiscal crisis that forced a $1.4 billion cut in school aid in the current state budget, about a 5 percent cut in aid to public schools. "New York is now reaping the fruits of doing right by its students when it raised the statewide cap on charter schools, instituted a new teacher evaluation system based on student achievement data, and raised performance expectations on state exams.''

A statewide foundation that promotes charter schools and other reforms including using student achievement in teacher evaluations warned that winning the money is just part of the equation.

"While New York proposed a strong, coherent set of promising reforms in its application, it remains to be seen what reform options individual districts will end up fully implementing,'' said B. Jason Brooks, director of research and communications at the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability. "The potential long-term impact this funding will have on student achievement really comes down to local leadership and a willingness to abandon the status quo.''

The number of charters available for the innovative public schools run by private entities will increase to 460 over four years, from the current 200.

New York was among nine states and the District of Columbia awarded grants Tuesday. Eighteen states and the district were finalists. New Jersey's Education Department had high hopes that the state could win the grant as a way to jump-start programs favored by Gov. Chris Christie. The state said it would have used the money to start paying teachers partly according to how well students perform on tests and to reward top teachers willing to work in tough school districts.

Lawmakers and Gov. David Paterson agreed in March to expand opportunities for opening more charter schools and take other steps, working with the Board of Regents, Education Commissioner David Steiner and New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein. The number of charters available for the innovative schools will increase to 460 over four years, from the current 200.

"From the state government level, I think this vindicates our efforts to maintain the highest standards of performance from students," Gov. Paterson said.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said the aid would "help ensure a better future for students all across  New York State," adding that the money would "benefit students for generations to come."

In May, Duncan said New York's charter school cap cost the state 13 points off the rating on its first grant application. The state placed 15th out of 16 states that applied. Duncan said New York had a "great chance'' to win a grant in the second round.

Last month, the federal education department provided more than $814 million in education stimulus money specifically to avoid thousands of teacher layoffs.

(Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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