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Mistake Costs N.J. Education $400 Mil; Christie: Obama To Blame

TRENTON (CBS 2) -- A costly mistake in the New Jersey governor's office has cost the state $400 million in critical education funding.

On Wednesday, Gov. Chris Christie blamed President Barack Obama.

It was New Jersey's future -- a 1,000 page plan to get $400 million in federal funds for innovating education, called the Race to the Top.

But that money is lost, after one person in the Department of Education entered budget numbers for the wrong years.

"I'm not gonna fire somebody over this. I take that responsibility because I'm the governor," Christie said.

But even as he accepted blame, Gov. Christie dished it out as well, saying the plan to revolutionize education in New Jersey was solid and deserved to win the funding, and said a quick phone call would have corrected the error.

"That's the stuff the Obama administration should answer to. Are you just down there checking boxes like mindless drones?" Christie said.

Christie says that when the president comes back to the state "he's going to have to explain to the people...of New Jersey why he's depriving them of $400 million that this application earned."

State Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver called it "a stunning mistake that is going to hurt New Jersey's children.''

Meanwhile, while the $400 million was funding the future, the teachers union said it's still stunned over the loss of nearly $1.3 billion in state school funding, saying it is stripping the schools of 10,000 teachers and necessary programs.

"Library arts, languages, musical education will be the first to go," said Wendell Steinhauer of the N.J. Education Association.

"Our school system is going to be devastated. Programs cut, class size increased," added Fred Schwartz of the Hamilton Township Education Association.

Schwartz, a 35-year teaching veteran and lifelong Hamilton resident, said he fears for his students' futures.

"This is not a wealthy community. We usually get a lot of scholarship money for our school kids and this is going to hamper our ability to get those scholarship dollars," Schwartz said.

One of the ways Hamilton Township is dealing with its loss of funding in the school system is by cutting some bussing, which means some kids now have to navigate a busy Route 33. It's something many say is unacceptable.

But there is a chance to fill some of the gap from state cuts and a $268 million federal grant meant to put unemployed teachers back to work. The teachers union said Christie is dragging his feet on that application.

"We're not dragging our feet. We're carefully preparing that application. You can only imagine how carefully we're preparing that application," Gov. Christie said.

It was a little sarcasm at a time when educators and parents were hoping for accountability.

New York was awarded $700 million in education aid.

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