Tuesday, June 1, 2010

NJ Governor Christie Overrides Education Commissioner Bret Schundler for Compromising with Teachers Union- Round 2 Race to the Top Application

In a move that may compromise New Jersey from being competitive for over $400 million in RACE TO THE TOP funding, Governor Christie broke an agreement reached by his Commissioner of Education and the New Jersey Teachers Association (NJEA). In doing so, Governor Christie essentially communicated both his lack of faith in his Commissioner as well further establishing his lack of willingness to reach any compromise on his educational reform agenda. You may recall, that part of having a competitive bid for RACE TO THE TOP funding is predicated on cooperation with teachers on some mandated reform efforts (i.e. merit pay, accountability, etc...).

You can view the Round Two Application by clicking HERE.

You can view the official Press Release by the NJ Department of Education by clicking HERE.

Below is an article that appeared on NJ.COM on June 1, 2010. The full article can be accessed by clicking HERE.


TRENTON — The Christie administration today submitted a new application for up to $400 million in federal education funding, promising a "bold reform agenda" — but breaking an agreement reached last week with the state's largest teachers' union.

The Race to the Top application returns to what Gov. Chris Christie called his “core principles” of rewarding teachers based on merit and student advancement instead of seniority.

In a West Trenton press conference today, Christie said his Education Commissioner Bret Schundler had made a mistake by announcing an agreement last week with the New Jersey Education Association that included compromises on merit pay, teacher seniority, evaluations and tenure.

The union had refused to endorse the state's first Race to the Top application in January, and the Obama administration has made a unified front a key factor in winning funding.

Tennessee and Delaware received funding in the first round of competition, and Christie in March said the "arrogant" union's lack of support "may have" been to blame for New Jersey being left out.

The agreement announced last week seemed to be a compromise to try to do better, but it was apparently made without Christie’s sign-off. The Republican governor said he first heard of his Education Commissioner Bret Schundler’s compromise after it was publicly announced and insisted the application be reworked.

"We had a long talk on Friday about the way these things work," Christie said of a meeting with Schundler. "This is my administration, I'm responsible for it, and I make the decisions."

But Christie said he still had firm and complete confidence in Schundler.

"I like working with him, and I think he’s one of the more inventive minds in public education in the country," Christie said. "I’m sure we’ll have disagreements in the future. Hopefully we’ll just handle them a little differently.

State Democratic lawmakers today said the governor made an "about-face" on the application that could jeopardize New Jersey's chances.

Teachers union president Barbara Keshishian in a statement said she felt “deep disappointment, utter frustration and total outrage” in the move, which she said would “greatly jeopardize” the state’s chances to get the federal money.

Keshishian also said that they heard about the changes in the application after union officials spoke to Schundler.

“In April, the governor wrote on his blog that he was hoping to submit a Race To The Top application with ‘sufficient support from New Jersey’s education stakeholders — including the NJEA,’” Keshishian said. “Now, we learn that despite all that hard work — and the long-overdue collaboration that New Jerseyans want between Gov. Christie and NJEA — the governor has once again chosen the path of conflict.”

Christie Round 2 Cover Letter for Race to the Top Funding