Monday, August 30th, 2010 - 6:50
Sunday, August 29, 2010 - 20:47
New Jersey blew it, by improperly filling out its Race to the Top application. But should it have been given another chance? Please let us know what you think.
Should major grant applicants get a chance to redo application mistakes? We know that we’re not alone in wondering about this after it came to light that New Jersey may have missed out on Race to the Top funding because of a simple error in responding to questions on the state’s Round Two application. (The state had, by the way, answered the same question properly – and gotten full credit for it – on its Round One application.)
The story, in case you’re not fully aware of it, is reasonably straightforward. Had New Jersey filled out the application properly, it probably would have won Race to the Top money. But the blown question was worth 4.8 points. With those additional points, the state would have had a higher score than grant winner Ohio. Result: New Jersey’s badly filled out form likely cost it some $400 million in educational reform funding.
It’s hard to deny that New Jersey gets a big chunk of the blame here for not double-checking its work. Further, It has since come to light that federal officials twice asked New Jersey officials to provide the right info during the interviewing process, but the state didn’t do that. When the issue came to light, New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler was dismissed.
Here’s the question that we’ve been talking about: Does it make sense to penalize the education system of a state—and the students themselves—for what amounts to an inadvertent clerical error? After a fair amount of discussion, it turns out that the two of us disagree on this. We won’t tell you which one of us believes what, but one of us thinks that the federal grant-makers should have gone one step further in getting the information. After all, New Jersey had supplied the information properly in its Round One application and so it’s not like that information couldn’t be found. Surely federal officials could have checked that first submission. Should thousands of New Jersey children be penalized for a badly filled out form? One of us doesn’t think so.
The other half of our little team disagrees with that notion, arguing that evaluators for Race to the Top couldn’t be expected to go back and check with each state on questions that might have been misinterpreted or points that could have been lost for silly reasons. Perhaps this simple error is indicative of larger problems in the state; if the proper review system wasn’t in place to catch this problem, isn’t it fair to question whether New Jersey should be trusted to account well for hundreds of millions of dollars? There’s also a concern that if additional opportunities were given to New Jersey to fix its application, then Ohio would have seen its hopes for Race to the Top dashed. But perhaps there were questions on Ohio’s questionnaire that could have been improved with a second chance response.
What do you think? We’d really like to hear from you, our readers. And if one of us is persuaded by the other argument, we’ll let you know.