Newark, New Jersey — July 13, 2006

Public records show that Commissioner Lucille Davy has failed to follow through on her pledge to the NJ Supreme Court that she would improve public accountability for Abbott funding.

In Court certifications filed in April, Commissioner Davy represented that the Department of Education was in the process of hiring outside auditors to assist in the review of the FY2007 Abbott district budgets, and would retain Dr. Deanna Burney, an urban education expert, “to spearhead…accountability initiatives in the Abbott districts.” The Commissioner presented Dr. Burney’s resume to the Court, and Attorney General Zulima Farber touted Dr. Burney at oral argument.

The Commissioner’s commitments were made in a Supreme Court motion in the Abbott v. Burke case seeking permission to cut urban school budgets to help erase a State budget deficit. On May 9th, the Court approved the Commissioner’s budget proposal.

According to the Acting Commissioner’s certification to the Court, the outside auditors would work on the budgets of Abbott districts, and would “focus on instructional staff ratios, non-instructional staffing, central office staffing and those areas of spending within the district budget that have increased significantly over the past several years.” Public records show, however, that budget auditors were assigned to only 7 of the 31 Abbott districts. Even in these 7 districts, reports of the auditors work are not available.

There is also no record that the Commissioner’s urban education expert — Dr. Burney – is actually working for the Department.

“The Commissioner needs to publicly explain why all Abbott district budgets were not audited, as promised to the Supreme Court,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director and Abbott Counsel. “The public also needs to know if Dr. Burney is working for the Department or if not, why not. And if Dr. Burney will not be hired, the Commissioner must explain her plan to bring sorely-needed expertise in urban education into the Department.”

Education Law Center Press Contact:
David G. Sciarra
Executive Director
voice: 973 624-1815 x16

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Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications
973-624-1815, x240