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

English-Language Learners Webinar Helping English-Learners Through Improved Parent Outreach: Strategies That Work
Communicating with families is key to helping students thrive – and that’s become even more apparent during a pandemic that’s upended student well-being and forced constant logistical changes in schools. Educators should pay particular attention
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
Mathematics Webinar
Addressing Unfinished Learning in Math: Providing Tutoring at Scale
Most states as well as the federal government have landed on tutoring as a key strategy to address unfinished learning from the pandemic. Take math, for example. Studies have found that students lost more ground
Content provided by Yup Math Tutoring
Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue

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 The Political Spotlight on Schools' COVID Relief Money Isn't Going Away
Politicians and researchers are among those scrutinizing the use and oversight of billions in pandemic education aid.
7 min read
Business man with brief case looking under a giant size bill (money).
iStock/Getty Images Plus
Education Funding Here's How Schools Can Use Federal COVID Aid to Solve Bus Driver and Other Transportation Woes
The Education Department outlines districts' options for using relief money to solve nationwide problems in getting kids to and from school.
2 min read
Students catch their bus near Ambridge Area Senior High School on the first day of Pennsylvania's mask mandate for K-12 schools and day care centers on Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021, in Ambridge, Pa.
Students catch their bus near Ambridge Area Senior High School in Ambridge, Pa., earlier this year on the first day of Pennsylvania's mask mandate for K-12 schools.
Andrew Rush/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP
Education Funding High Schoolers to Decide How to Spend $1.5 Million in COVID Funding
State officials called Connecticut's new Voice4Change campaign “a first-in-the-nation statewide student civic engagement initiative.”
1 min read
Image is an illustration of a school receiving financial aid.
Collage by Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: E+, Nuthawut Somsuk/iStock/Getty)
Education Funding North Carolina Must Spend $1.75B to Narrow Education Gap, Judge Orders
The judge's order has angered GOP lawmakers and will likely set up a constitutional showdown between the three state government branches.
4 min read
Image of money.
TARIK KIZILKAYA/iStock/Getty