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After Firing Schools Chief, Christie Appoints an Acting Commissioner

Friday, August 27, 2010

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has wasted almost no time in appointing an acting commissioner for his state's Department of Education. The new acting New Jersey Education Commissioner is Rochelle Hendricks, a former deputy commissioner.

Christie fired Education Commissioner Bret Schundler Friday morning, saying Schundler botched New Jersey's application to secure federal "Race to the Top" education funds by failing to correct a minor clerical error.

The error, listing budget numbers for 2011 instead of 2008 and 2009, cost New Jersey five points on the application and a shot at $400 million in federal funds.

In May, without the governor's consent, Schundler made concessions to teachers' unions on merit pay and tenure. Christie nixed that plan and berated Schundler, and the application was submitted without teacher support.

Fairleigh Dickinson University pollster Peter Wooley says that's what really cost New Jersey the $400 million in grants.

"If the teachers had signed off on that plan, the plan would have gone forward. And the missing data would not have made any difference whatever. In fact, this is only one of many factors that held back New Jersey's application," Wooley says.

New York was a winner in the Race to the Top contest, with an award of almost $700 million in new school spending.  

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