The charges keep flying in New Jersey as fired Education Commissioner Bret Schundler (R) and Governor Chris Christie (R) continue to spar over whether Schundler should have been fired over his explanations as to why New Jersey lost out on $400 million in federal education funding due to a mistake on a grant application.
Who’s telling the truth and who is just trying to cover themselves? TPMMuckraker looks into the charges and counter charges and breaks it down.
The incident that set the whole train wreck in motion was the loss of $400 million in federal education funding through the Race for the Top program. An error in the application — which everyone agrees originated in Schundler’s office — cost the state the grant, and started the finger-pointing that ended in Schundler’s dismissal.
After losing the grant, Christie held a press conference on August 25 to blame Obama and unnamed Washington bureaucrats for not allowing New Jersey to correct the error — which Christie blamed on a mid-level staffer. But on Thursday, Aug. 26, the Department of Education released a video of the New Jersey delegation’s presentation showing that Schundler was asked to supply the missing data and failed to do so. On Friday, Christie fired Schundler on the grounds that he had lied to the governor about trying to give the missing information to the federal officials.
But Schundler now says he made it clear to the the governor that he did not try to provide additional information to the Department of Education officials because the rules don’t allow states to correct or add to their applications after they are submitted. He told TPMMuckraker that he told Christie prior to the press conference not to say that Obama was at fault or suggest that his office wasn’t to blame. But Schundler has also said that he may have made a mistakenly told the Governor that the conversation with a reviewer about the missing data took place during the official presentation when it actually happened after the camera was turned off.
In addition, this week Schundler admitted that he, not a mid-level staffer, apparently edited out the crucial data this week that caused the state to lose out on the funding. Schundler has said that the federal Education Department recently found a draft of the Race to the Top application that has edits in Schundler’s handwriting which remove the data federal officials requested.
New Jersey Democrats are now calling on Christie to apologize to President Barack Obama for blaming his administration for the mistake.