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Majority Leader Buono Responds To Governor’s Attempt To Sidestep Questions On ‘Race To The Top’

TRENTON – Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono today responded to the Governor’s attempt to sidestep questions about the Race to the Top fiasco that resulted in a $400 million loss to the state and the firing of the Education Commissioner.

The Majority Leader was responding, in particular, to comments made today by the Governor that “there’s really no enduring mysteries left” with regard to ‘Race to the Top.’

“In fact, it’s just the opposite – the more this plays out, the more questions there are about the entire process,” said Majority Leader Buono (D-Middlesex). “We’re not going to sweep this under the rug just because it’s politically expedient for the Governor. The public deserves a full explanation as to how the Administration caused New Jersey taxpayers to lose $400 million in education funding as well as assurances that it will not happen again.”

The U.S. Department of Education last week announced the 10 ‘Race to the Top’ winners that will share $3.4 billion in education funding. New Jersey finished 11th, just three points behind Ohio, because the Administration submitted inaccurate information in response to a question about state funding for education. The question the state failed to answer according to the application’s clear instruction was worth five points.

The Governor today brushed off efforts by Senate Democrats to determine through legislative hearings how the mix-up occurred, and how to implement a process that creates adequate oversight of future state applications.

“It’s a sad commentary that our Governor finds transparency and appropriate government oversight laughable,” said Senator Buono (D-Middlesex). “These comments are clearly an attempt to sidestep the many unanswered questions that continue to come up by the hour. Based on what we know, the application preparation process was chaotic, at best. It is more important than ever to get to the bottom of how this mistake happened, and to ensure that, going forward, a process is in place that provides proper oversight of applications of this kind.”

Senator Buono noted that among the many questions remaining is precisely how the error occurred and what role the state’s hired consultant, Wireless Generation – paid $179,750 for its involvement – played in the process. Also unresolved is whether the Governor knew before his Wednesday press conference – during which he railed against federal education officials – that the state’s panel never provided the U.S. Department of Education with the correct budget numbers during their in-person interview.

“It’s unfortunate the governor continues to trivialize a matter that, if left unresolved, has the potential to result in additional funding losses for New Jersey taxpayers,” added Senator Buono. “We can only hope for more cooperation as we delve into our hearings in the upcoming weeks. The residents of New Jersey deserve more than a brush-off from their Governor – they deserve accountability.”

The Senate Legislative Oversight Committee, chaired by Senator Buono, has scheduled a Sept. 23 hearing.