Sunday Leftovers

We're all of-a-theme today as NJ roils and reddens over the increasingly embarrassing set of circumstances surrounding our narrow loss in the federal Race To The Top competition. Read all about it. But first, what's up with our presentation at the US DOE (here's the video) where our highest management level at the Department of Education was stymied by a simple fiscal question? For what ever reason -- clerical error, lame attempt at duplicity -- our application substituted 2011 data for 2008 data and five long-time luminaries of the DOE (well, three: Bret Schundler is/was a short-timer and Andy Smarick's the brand new kid on the block) couldn't come up with anything coherent? As a gentle US DOE rater tried twice to tease out the correct information, no one could call a friend, text the NJ DOE, access a data base, or know off the top of one's head basic budgetary information for school state aid?

Onward we go, with NJEA executives fortified and Assembly Democrats (here's Paul Moriarty, Angel Fuentes, Patrick J. Diegnan, and Sheila Oliver) churning out press releases as they remember who butters their bread.

Good overview of this week’s madness in the Star-Ledger, including the widely-circulated rumor (documented by “two sources close to the administration”) that Andy Smarick was the first choice for Acting Commissioner but his name wasn’t submitted because he still hasn’t officially been approved by the Legislature as Deputy Commissioner.

The Star-Ledger Editorial Board comments, "So who was at fault? …We may never know for sure. But what a week for the Christie crew. They lost $400 million. They lost a good commissioner. And they drew national attention to this episode of incompetence and division."

The Auditor reminds us that NJ was “one of a handful of states that cut class and did not attend a US Department of Education workshop last spring to guide states on filling our their second-round applications…Participants were also shown a slide reminding them to proofread the final application.”

The Record interviews a “shaken” and “heartbroken” Bret Schundler at his home. Schundler tells them that he believes that the compromise application approved by NJEA would have “handily won.”

PolitickerNJ,
in its Winners and Losers Column for this week, gives a gold medal to NJEA, which has now “escaped total irrelevance and finally landed a political jab on a flailing Gov. Chris Christie" Raspberries all around for Chris Christie, who tried to blame Barack Obama for the RTTT loss; “in reality it was chaos in his own cabinet that was to blame."

National Commentary: From Eduwonk:
In New Jersey state ed chief Brett Schundler has been fired by the governor over this budget issue with Race to the Top. Wow. Given how Governor Christie has treated Schundler throughout this process good luck finding someone strong for that position. And, given that Schundler was a favorite of the school choice crowd, what’s the fallout there.
Here's PoliticsK12 at Education Week's take. The Wall St. Journal reports on Schundler's "best interpretation" of the set of events that led to his firing: "what I like to imagine, is that the governor, when he's on a roll and he's moving so quickly, he was thinking of what he was going to say and he's forgetting what I said two minutes ago."He added: "To me it's hard to understand how when you gave the correct information you end up being asked to resign." Flypaper at Fordham describes NJ's "meltdown." Heck, we even made the Huffington Post, the Boston Herald, and the Times Picayune in New Orleans.

In other news, “cash-strapped districts” (not that this has anything to do with the bogus answer on our Race To The Top application that asked for fiscal proof of state commitment to education) are charging pay-to-play fees for everything from sports to parking, according to the Star Ledger.

One reason why we need education reform: It took more than four years and $400,000 in legal fees, according to The Record, for the Paterson school district to strip special ed teacher Curtis Robinson of his tenure, even though there was ample evidence of “rage, profanity, and physical abuse in the classroom.” "Asked if illegal drug use ever interfered with his work, he said he only smoked or freebased cocaine after school. "Immediately after work I'd have a line or two," he said. "I been teaching so long you can function with your eyes closed. I might have been preoccupied a few times."

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