(HT: Pullins Report)
Conservatives who ordinarily would deride a program like “Race to the Top” have been working overtime suggesting some political conspiracy must have been responsible for the great first-year Gov. Christie from losing out in getting funding to Governor Ted Strickland because it’s impossible to believe that Christie could have possibly screwed up so royally (so long as you ignore the evidence to the contrary.)
Except that overwhelming evidence shows that it was Governor Christie’s fault for his State in losing out $400 million in federal school funding. I mean, literally, Governor Christie, personally, was at fault (from the New York Times):
After the state’s failure to reach the finals of the first round of the federal competition under the leadership of Gov. Jon S. Corzine, Mr. Christie’s commissioner of education, Bret Schundler, hammered out a draft agreement with the union in the days before the second round application was due. He and the union said they thought that would increase the state’s chances.
But Mr. Christie, deciding the compromise had severely weakened the state’s ability to carry out measures derided by the union — like establishing merit pay for individual teachers, using student test scores as a primary measure of a teacher’s performance and making it tougher for teachers to get tenure — rejected the agreement announced on May 27.
That left the state with little more than the Memorial Day weekend to complete a new version of the application, which was due that Tuesday. In the end, only one person was assigned to review the checklist for the 700-page appendix to the grant application, Mr. Christie said Wednesday.
Yep, because Christie made a last-minute decision to reject the agreement his Administration had reached with the State’s teacher unions, they had to rush a redraft of an entirely new application. They had Memorial Day weekend to slap it together, only had time for one person to review thousands of pages hastily, and even had to send a staffer to deliver it in D.C. by car to get it there in time. As a result, the State failed to catch an error in reporting its changes in its funding of education over the past few years.
But that’s not all Christie’s arrogant decision to override his Administration’s own deal with the teacher’s union cost the State’s application:
Mr. Christie cited only the clerical error in explaining the state’s loss, but a look at the score sheet, released on Wednesday, showed that the state lost more points in other areas of its application, in part because it got only 59 percent of its 645 school districts to agree to carry out Race to the Top reforms, and only 1 percent of its unions. In New York, which was among the winners, all districts signed on.
New Jersey lost 14 points for the union’s lack of support, by Mr. Christie’s own accounting, and 16 points for its failure to make as much progress on statewide student and teacher data systems as other states. Even in the area with Mr. Christie’s most aggressive changes, in educator certification and evaluation, the state came up 14 points short.
Christie’s refusal to accept the compromise reached with the teacher’s union cost the State more points than the clerical error. In addition, Christie’s Administration not only failed to get the teacher unions support, but he got less school districts to agree to carry out the reforms than successful States. Each one of these factors, separately, cost the State’s application more than “clerical error,” which again, was also entirely the result of Christie’s unwillingness to accept a compromise his school chief reached with the State’s teachers.
So, naturally, after trying to blame the U.S. Department of Education and failing, Christie now has fired the school chief as one the State’s leading teacher unions have released a draft of the application with the compromise that the unions had worked out with that official—a draft that didn’t have the “clerical error” Christie’s hastily produced application had.
What was that about Governor envy, again?
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