Christie in a press release Friday said, “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. As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s Education Commissioner.” He does not specify what information was inconsistent.
The issue revolves around the fact that the Request for Proposals asked for education funding expenditures during the 2008-09 period but the state provided information for a later period. A definite “No No” in a grant.
The Star Ledger reported on what he “conveyed to the People of NJ” in his Wednesday press conference. It certainly was not his finest hour. Below are his quotes:
“The mistake was made by a mid-level official at the state Department of Education.” Such does not appear likely. NJEA has demonstrated that the version of the proposal prior to Christie deciding to have it re-written included the accurate data. Others have shown that a completely different response appeared in the re-written, final version, which covered a later period and provided a more favorable view of Christie and NJ education funding.
“Officials at the U.S. Department of Education could have easily either called New Jersey or found the information on the internet.” It is not up to grant reviewers to call or search the internet when an organization fails to answer a question correctly. During the video tape of the reviewers’ conference with the NJ team the reviewer sought to find out if the correct information was located elsewhere in the proposal. In fairness to other applicants the reviewer was not offering to accept revised data after the deadline.
“That’s the stuff the Obama administration should answer for.” Rather than being petulant, he might have accepted defeat more gracefully. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in his grant awards announcement was complimentary toward those not funded, indicated very few points separated them from the successful applicants, but said, “We had many more competitive applications than money to fund them in this round.” He also hopes for a third round next year.
“State Education Commissioner Bret Schundler gave the correct information to the U.S. Department of Education when giving his presentation two weeks ago.” Schundler disputes this fact saying “he never told the Governor he tried to add new information to the state’s application – which would have been against the rules.” There is no indication in the video he tried to provide such information. He says he warned Christie both in e-mails and in person not to make such a claim.
Note to the Governor: Trying to re-write a large and complex proposal over a long weekend when so much is at stake is a fool’s errand. Errors creep in and there is the danger of making spur-of-the moment changes that have not been well thought out. Also why did NJ not send a delegation to the Technical Assistance Workshop? 41 other states did. It might have helped.