Wednesday, September 1, 2010


An easily corrected mistake on New Jersey's application for the highly competitive Race to the Top education grants might have cost the state $400 million. Last Tuesday, the federal government announced that nine states and the District of Columbia had won the coveted grants. New Jersey was the top runner-up.

The following day, Christie said he was not going to fire anyone over the mistake. He admitted he was not happy about it and said Education commissioner, Bret Schundler wasn't happy about it either. Two days later Christie fired Schundler.

Christie said he was first told by Schundler that when the commissioner went in for a personal interview two weeks before the grant decision was made Schundler verbally gave the 08 and 09 state budget numbers that the application was seeking. Christie claimed the 08/09 comparison supports the state getting the full five points.

Schundler says he never told Christie he fixed the mistake, but now the Governor says, "It is I think pretty clear at this point that the truth wasn't told…….It does not make me feel to have to say that someone mislead me…..Don't lie to the Governor. That's the message."

Today, Schundler fired off an e-mail to reporters with five separate attachments. One is a lengthy chronology of events from his perspective and the other four are supporting documents. In the text of the e-mail Schundler wrote, “I’ve held up distributing this chronology of events because I haven’t wanted the education agenda I support to be harmed by Governor Christie being weakened. But the Governor saying yesterday that I lied to him forces me to defend myself. You can quote from this chronology all you want. But please don’t call me for comment or ask me for an interview. I am sick of this thing and will let the Governor have the last word. Just know that what I’ve written here is the truth, and please provide an internet link to this material in your coverage so people can see it for themselves. I know most of you won’t be able to print or air all of this.”

The chronology all of which can be found on and under “Top New Jersey Story.” Here’s a small sampling of the scathing, must-read chronology, “Last Wednesday, while criticizing the Obama Administration during a press conference, the Governor made a statement in support of an argument he was trying to drive home. Unfortunately, the statement was untrue. I had stressed this point to him when he told me what he planned to say, right before the press conference began. I had also discussed the matter at length with his Chief of Staff and his Director of Communications the day before, so they knew the facts of the matter.”

“On Thursday, the Obama Administration released a video tape that proved the statement was untrue. The Governor was embarrassed. Rather than acknowledge his culpability for the false statement, he fired me – his Commissioner of Education – charging that I had given him and his staff bad information on the point in question. But I had not. I had given them correct information. The Governor’s charge against me is false.”

“(The) idea, that you simply admit making a mistake, obviously didn’t sit well with the Governor because the next morning, while I was at my office, I received a phone call from him. The Governor was on speakerphone and Rich Bagger was with him. The Governor said he was angry about the missing information in our grant application, but that no one was going to lose their job over it. He said he was about to do a press conference about the matter, and that he believed it isalways better to be on offense than defense, so he would accept responsibility for the error, and then go on offense against the Obama Administration. He was going to try to make the story about their picayune rules. He was going to say that I gave the reviewers the missing information, but the Obama Administration refused to give us the points we deserved, and that this showed they put bureaucratic rules above meaningful education reform.”

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