NJ Gov. Chris Christie Fires Education Commissioner Over $400 Million Mistake

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he was firing his education commissioner Friday, days after it was revealed that a simple mistake on an application form might have cost the state a $400 million education grant.
The dismissal of Commissioner Bret Schundler comes after New Jersey ranked as the top runner-up for the Race to the Top grants, missing out by only a few points. The Star-Ledger of Newark later reported that budget figures for the wrong years were supplied in one section of the application.
Christie had defended Schundler on Wednesday, saying he gave the federal government the missing information during a meeting in Washington this week. But a video released Thursday by the federal Education Department shows that wasn't the case.

"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 Friday. "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.''

Schundler said in a telephone interview Friday that he was disappointed.

"I don't believe that education commissioners are interchangeable any more than governors are,'' he said. "We could have been very successful at accelerating reforms in New Jersey.''

He said he was asked to resign but requested to be fired instead so he could collect unemployment insurance.

"I have a mortgage to pay and a daughter about to start college,'' he said.

Schundler, a former Jersey City mayor and gubernatorial candidate, is an outspoken proponent of educational reform and was an unconventional choice as a member of the governor's cabinet.

There was tension between Schundler and Christie, both Republicans, earlier over the Race to the Top application. Schundler made compromises on the proposal to win the endorsement of the New Jersey Education Association, the state's main teachers union.

Christie rejected those compromises.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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