Rumor Mill: Schundler is Toast

The Record is printing a rumor that Ed. Comm. Bret Schundler, thrown under the SCHOOL BUS by Gov. Christie (we’re keeping track of how many reporters will use this rip-roarer today), will resign next Wednesday. All eyes on Schundler at today’s hearing of the Senate Education Committee, where he’s scheduled to stare down the headlights and answer reporters’ questions.

Question: where is Andy Smarick in all of this? He’s scheduled to start serving as Schundler’s Deputy Commissioner in early August, presumably replacing Willa Spicer, who may move elsewhere in the DOE. Smarick is widely regarded as a Race To The Top guru; EdWeek calls him an “uber-analyst” who “perhaps knows as much about the Race to the Top competition as the folks at the U.S. Department of Education.”

So, getting way ahead of ourselves, if Schundler resigns, does Smarick get appointed as NJ’s Commissioner of Education? Does Bret Schundler get appointed to the NJ Supreme Court, replacing John Wallace?

Moving away from speculation, The Star-Ledger scored an “exclusive interview” with Gov. Christie. Here’s the scoop:
Christie said Schundler was never empowered to negotiate away key provisions of the governor’s education agenda and any impression to the contrary was wrong. The governor said the deal Schundler reached with the union did nothing but cave in to the NJEA and gut his plan for improving state schools. Christie said he heard Thursday night that an accord had been reached but knew no details.

“I did not hear any of the specifics of what Bret suggested we agree to until Friday morning. I called him and told him that was unacceptable to me,” the governor said.
Um, okay. If Schundler wasn’t “empowered to negotiate,” why was he openly negotiating with NJEA”s execs in the first place? Does Christie not read the papers? And, in an 18-wheeler irony, Schundler, who was identified in 1993 in the Wall Street Journal as NJEA’s “Public Enemy #1,” is suddenly the union’s hero and fellow victim.

Meanwhile, whither the prospects of our Race To The Top application? Will federal evaluators regard this multi-vehicle collision at NJ’s DOE as a sign that we’re incapable of implementing Christie’s education reform prospectus? Or will it be regarded as a signal of our seriousness of purpose? Certainly, the uncompromising version of our application – pre-NJEA edits – is a more progressive plan, much more in line with President Obama and Ed. Sec. Arne Duncan’s vision. But our political combustibility may get in the way of a federal commitment of hundreds of millions of dollars. In that case, the road kill is our public school system.

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