Special Report
Education Funding

N.J. Schools Chief Fired Over Race to Top Gaffe

By Sean Cavanagh — August 31, 2010 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie last week fired his appointed education commissioner, Bret Schundler, in the wake of a paperwork gaffe that may have cost the state a $400 million Race to the Top grant.

The Aug. 27 announcement followed days of fingerpointing over who was responsible for the error on the 1,000-page application, which cost the state 5 points. New Jersey scored 437.8 out of 500 possible points, just behind Ohio, which earned a score of 440.8 and was the 10th and final applicant that qualified for funding.

The firing came after Gov. Christie had defended the state’s round-two application, saying that New Jersey officials had tried to alert federal reviewers to the error during a videotaped, in-person presentation. But the subsequent release of that video made it appear that federal officials—not the state—flagged the error and that state officials were unable to provide the correct information.

“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 conveyed to the people of New Jersey,” Gov. 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.”

Mr. Schundler had made no comment on the firing as of press time Friday.

Earlier in the week, Gov. Christie denounced the application reviewers—and the Obama administration directly—for not being willing to overlook what he called a “clerical error.”

“If you are a normal, thinking, breathing human being, you pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, you sent this one wrong paper; can we get the information?’ ” Gov. Christie said.

The application had asked states to compare spending on education in fiscal 2008 and 2009. New Jersey mistakenly responded by discussing proposed education spending increases for fiscal 2011, which resulted in the reviewers’ docking the points and noting the error.

Controversy had dogged the state’s application earlier, when Gov. Christie rejected a compromise that Mr. Schundler had arranged with a state teachers’ union on tenure and merit pay. The governor, who has feuded with the union, called the arrangement a “contrived consensus” and removed it from the final application.

New Jersey was not the only state to make a mistake on a Race to the Top proposal. In round one, Hawaii mistakenly omitted a section of its application on ensuring equitable distribution of teachers and principals, costing it 25 points, said Robert Campbell, the executive assistant for school reform for the state education department.

For round two, Hawaii filled in the gap—and walked away a winner, with $75 million.

A version of this article appeared in the September 01, 2010 edition of Education Week as N.J. Schools Chief Fired Over Race to Top Gaffe

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Classroom Technology Webinar
Academic Integrity in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
As AI writing tools rapidly evolve, learn how to set standards and expectations for your students on their use.
Content provided by Turnitin
Recruitment & Retention Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table: Chronic Teacher Shortage: Where Do We Go From Here?  
Join Peter DeWitt, Michael Fullan, and guests for expert insights into finding solutions for the teacher shortage.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Reading & Literacy Webinar
The Science of Reading: Tools to Build Reading Proficiency
The Science of Reading has taken education by storm. Learn how Dr. Miranda Blount transformed literacy instruction in her state.
Content provided by hand2mind

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Funding 6 Lawsuits That Could Shake Up How States Pay for Schools
Far removed from annual budgets, these lawsuits hold the potential to force states to direct more funds to their schools.
6 min read
Large white hand holding a weighing scale with a bag of money on one side and books with floating letters on the other side showing a balance of knowledge and money
iStock/Getty
Education Funding States Are Rolling in Surplus Cash, But It's Not All Good News for Schools
Some states are ramping up education spending, while others are leaving districts disappointed.
7 min read
Illustration of a man holding oversized money.
Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty
Education Funding Education Equity Expert: 'We've Gotta Give Up the Notion of Local Control'
David Sciarra, stepping down as head of the Education Law Center, says states have been let off the hook in the push for education equity.
8 min read
David Sciarra, executive director of the Newark-based Education Law Center, an advocacy group for children in low-income cities, looks at paperwork during a hearing in a school funding case before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton, Wednesday, April 20, 2011.
David Sciarra, executive director of the Newark-based Education Law Center, an advocacy group for children in low-income cities, looks at paperwork during a hearing in a school funding case before the New Jersey Supreme Court in Trenton, Wednesday, April 20, 2011.
John O'Boyle/AP/Pool
Education Funding How School Funding Falls Short, by the Numbers
See how states measure up in an annual report on state school funding and equity.
1 min read
A white man looks up as he leans on a red ladder against a tall stack of coins
E+/Getty