New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie Friday fired Bret Schundler as education commissioner after a video showed that Schundler did not provide federal officials with requested information in the state’s submission for federal Race to the Top funds, even though Christie had previously insisted he did.
Initially, in a press conference on Wednesday, Christie said Schundler did provide the U.S. Department of Education with New Jersey’s education spending levels in 2008 and 2009 during an interview with federal officials.
The governor was also very critical of the federal government’s role in the matter.
“Does anybody in Washington, D.C., have a lick of common sense? Pick up the phone and ask us for the number,” Christie said during the Wednesday press conference, according to a transcript of the event.
“I was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape of the Race to the Top presentation was not consistent with the information provided to me by the New Jersey Department of Education and which I then conveyed to the people of New Jersey,” Christie said in a statement. “As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s education commissioner and as a member of my administration.”
In its submission, New Jersey provided its education spending for 2010 and 2011 when the application asked for the two previous years. The error cost the state 4.8 points and dropped it to 11th place with no funding.
Without the mistake, New Jersey would have earned 442.6 points, placing ninth among the 10 winning applicants, and the state would have gained $400 million.
In a U.S. DOE video of New Jersey’s Race to the Top interview on Aug. 11, federal officials asked for the state’s education spending levels for 2008 and 2009, but Schundler and his staff were unable to provide the information. The video is posted on the website of the Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper.
DOE spokesman Justin Hamilton said that the department does not plan on directing unallocated Race to the Top funds to New Jersey.
In a letter last week to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Schundler urged the DOE to consider a $75 million grant to help New Jersey advance its schools.
“We don’t anticipate deviating from our current plans,” Hamilton said.
The $4.35 billion Race to the Top competition allocates federal funds to states that are most effectively reforming their educational systems.
New York and Florida received the largest awards, $700 million each. Of that allocation, New York City anticipates receiving $250 million to $300 million for its school system, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.