Tuesday, September 7, 2010


State Education Department officials tell an Assembly panel that a clerical error alone doesn't explain why New Jersey finished just out of the money on $400 million in education grant. They say the state also lost points on its failed Race to the Top (RTTT) application for not having teacher support for merit pay and tenure reforms and for having antiquated data systems.

Today, the Assembly Appropriations Committee explored the mistakes that cost New Jersey $400 million in federal education grant funds. New Jersey lost 5 points for giving budget data for the wrong years. The state finished 3 points behind Ohio, which received federal funding. The state lost some points in the application review because it lost the endorsement of NJEA on certain reform ideas such as merit pay and allowing the firing of teachers based on poor performance and not a lack of seniority.

Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver is stunned that nobody could answer why the original paperwork was replaced with incorrect data. She says, "It's incredulous to me that you have five of the top decision makers in our State department of Education who know nothing……It's just incredulous to me that the top leaders of this department have no knowledge of anything."

When the state had to scrap its original proposal because of the NJEA’s decision not to support the plan, the entire application was almost scrapped. Assemblyman Herb Conaway asked Assistant State Education commissioner Willa Spicer what it meant to those involved that the application would have to be re-edited. She said, “It was a tough time because we had to first decide whether we would go on.”

Conway asked, “You actually considered whether or not the department could move forward (on the application)?”

“We considered how it could possibly be done. Yes,” responded Spicer.

Omitting the fact that changes were requested because the NJEA refused to support reform measures, Conaway asked, “Because the changes that the Governor was demanding at the time of you in the department jeopardized the application being submitted at all?”

Spicer said, “The commissioner wanted it done and we worked at it as hard as we could to get it done…..It was done.”

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