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More Race to the Top Fallout in New Jersey
posted by: Colin | August 31, 2010, 01:26 PM   

UPDATE: Bret Schundler, fired from his post of education commissioner by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has admitted that the fatal error in his state's Race to the Top application was his and his alone.

In an interview with the Star-Ledger, Schundler says he's learned that the Education Department found a draft of the application where an edit in his hand-writing removed the data the federal officials had requested, which cost the state $400 million.

For his part, Gov. Christie says it's time to move on from the costly error. He also summarized the disaster with one no-nonsense lesson: "Don't lie to the governor."

In a strange turn of events, Gov. Christie, who last week was berating the federal government for their apparent unwillingness to help New Jersey correct a costly error on their Race to the Top application, has fired his education commissioner, Bret Schundler.

Gov. Christie was forced to respond when the Department of Education released video evidence that contradicted the governor's argument on Wednesday. In the video Schundler did not provide the correct data to the application reviewers, as Gov. Christie had claimed. Christie says Schundler lied to him and ordered his resignation. When Schundler didn't resign, he was fired.

“As I have said before, I never promised the people of New Jersey that this would be a mistake-free administration," Christie said. "However, I did promise that the people serving in my administration would be held accountable for their actions.”

Schundler claims he did not lie to Gov. Christie, and there are some, particularly the governor's primary opponents, Democrats and the NJEA, who are hoping Schundler continues to keep this story alive by pleading his case. As this interview suggests, Schundler isn't begging for an opportunity to defend himself, Blagojevich-style. If he does go to war with Christie, as those opposed to the governor's agenda are hoping, the only sure loser is the education reform movement.

Time will tell if the NJEA can pin the Race to the Top failure to the reform-minded governor, although Gov. Christie is likely to remind the NJEA and everyone else that had the union supported his administration's application, they would have brought home $400 million regardless of the error.

For the time being, Christie has appointed Assistant Education Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks as acting commissioner while searching for a permanent replacement.

Read more AAE Blog coverage of Christie v. NJEA: Battle in the Garden State

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