New Jersey’s incoming governor has named school choice proponent Bret Schundler as his pick for education commissioner, sending his strongest signal yet to the state’s powerful National Education Association affiliate that he intends to pursue education measures that they oppose.
Mr. Schundler tangled with teachers’ unions over his support of school choice when he was the mayor of Jersey City.
He, like Chris Christie, who was scheduled to be sworn in as governor Jan. 19, supports giving parents more options in where to send their children to school. The two favor school vouchers and the expansion of charter schools, as well as merit pay for teachers.
“We agree on the type of significant reform that needs to happen in our educational system,” Mr. Christie said last week after introducing Mr. Schundler at a Statehouse news conference.
Mr. Christie, a Republican, has talked often about the need to reform public education. He has made no secret of his willingness to have poorly performing schools close, and has criticized outgoing Gov. Jon Corzine for failing to approve charter school applications at a brisk enough pace. Mr. Christie visited a thriving Newark charter school in his first public appearance after winning the governor’s race.
“We are at the moment in history where we have think tanks on both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Schundler said. “We have political leaders on both sides of the aisle willing to make changes that will make a difference in the lives of our students.”
Dawn Hiltner, a spokeswoman for the New Jersey Education Association, said the union has concerns about the incoming administration’s support of vouchers, but would find a way to work with Mr. Schundler if he’s confirmed by the state Senate.
We all really want the same things, she said. We might have different ideas on how to get there.
A version of this article appeared in the January 20, 2010 edition of Education Week as New N.J. Governor Picks Schools Chief