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Race to the Top: More on New Jersey’s Costly Goof

By Sean Cavanagh — August 26, 2010 1 min read
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As we explain in an online story today, New Jersey’s application package for a potential $400 million—more than 1,000 page in total—included a goof on page 261 of the PDF version, where state officials used the wrong years in describing funding levels for schools. That mistake cost the state five points in the competition. It appears to have been a crucial, since New Jersey scored 437.8, just behind Ohio, which earned a score of 440.8 and was the 10th and final state that qualified for funding.

Republican Gov. Chris Christie, whose office submitted the application, said his administration took responsibility for the mistake. But he also blasted the application reviewers—and the Obama administration directly—for not being willing to overlook what he called a “clerical error” and seek the correct information from the state.

“If you are a normal, thinking, breathing human being, you pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, you sent this one wrong paper, can we get the information?’ ” Gov. Christie said at an news conference. “Does anybody in Washington, D.C., have a lick of common sense? Pick up the phone and ask us for the number.”

But New Jersey Assembly Speaker Sheila Y. Oliver, a Democrat, said the governor’s administration was to blame, and vowed to hold a hearing to examine why the mistake occurred. And the U.S. Department of Ed doesn’t appear to be having any of Christie’s argument, judging from a spokesman’s pithy response.

“Our application requirements were very clear and a state that wanted to compete had to give us the correct information by the application deadline,” ED official Justin Hamilton told Politico. “At some point, you have to say: Time’s up, pencils down.”