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From the Desk of Senator Craig Johnson - April 9, 2010

Letter to Commissioner David Steiner

Senator Craig M. Johnson, (D-Nassau), wrote the following letter to State Education Commissioner David Steiner in the wake of an April 1 New York Post report concerning State Ed.’s request to purchase high-end office furniture with federal Race to the Top funding, and the agency’s wasteful practice of giving away taxpayer funded furniture. Chairman Klein has agreed to hold a hearing on this issue.


April 1, 2010


Commissioner David Steiner

State Education Department

89 Washington Avenue

Albany, New York 12234

(delivered by Fax and Mail)


Dear Commissioner Steiner,

I am writing you regarding a critically important matter.

Today’s report in the New York Post concerning the state of your department is nothing short of an outrage.

This conduct confirms the public’s most cynical opinions about government incompetence.

With this Race to the Top process, we had an opportunity to receive up to $700 million for our public schools. It is unconscionable that this state’s already weak application was sabotaged over office furniture.

Children, not chairs, should be your department’s first priority, and I shouldn’t have to tell you that.  

I understand that you have ordered a “top to bottom” review of the State Education Department’s purchasing policies, but frankly, that’s not enough.

I would like to know:

How the furniture request was included in the Race to the Top application in the first place? What directives you and your top deputies have put into place while crafting the State Education Department’s portion of this proposal. And what policies, written, or unwritten, permit state education officials to give away furniture that was purchased with taxpayer money.

The public deserves to know the answers to these, and related questions. For that reason, as a member of the Senate Task Force on Government Efficiency, I will be strongly recommending to Chairman Jeff Klein that we open up an inquiry into this matter. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Craig M. Johnson

Senator, 7th District