Fired education commissioner Bret Schundler said, in interviews as he prepared to testify before the state Senate Thursday morning, the bigger problem was Gov. Chris Christie’s insistence on perpetuating his battle with New Jersey’s leading teachers union. If Christie had permitted Schundler to submit a Race to the Top application endorsed by the New Jersey Education Association, the state would have racked up more than enough points to win money in the competition for federal education reform dollars — despite the mistake that Schundler has taken the blame for."We have an opportunity to win here, with union support, which is a rare thing," Schundler said he told Christie. "He said he didn’t care about the money … He said he hadn’t gone through hell with (the NJEA) so he could then cave in to them now."....
Where do I even begin?Schundler said he will tell senators the changes by Christie’s team in the final application made it impossible for the NJEA to sign on but made little substantive difference. Christie balked at Schundler’s deal with the NJEA on merit pay for teachers and layoff rules.Christie was livid, saying he had not been briefed on what Schundler was doing and the then-commissioner was not authorized to work out such an arrangement. Schundler, however, said he will testify Thursday that he briefed Richard Bagger, the governor’s chief of staff, on nearly all of his discussions with the NJEA, except for the final terms on the rules governing teacher layoffs in which the state softened its public position. Even so, Schundler said, Bagger was told about that before it was announced. Plus, Schundler said the deal was a good one for the state because it allowed the NJEA to endorse the application — something that could have been worth 15 additional points in the final judging."It seemed like a no-brainer," Schundler said.Christie became enraged after hearing radio host Jim Gearhart on New Jersey 101.5 FM bash the compromise as catering to the NJEA, Schundler said, adding that Christie phoned and said any notion of a compromise with the union would be "politically lethal" for him.When Schundler told Christie that the state conceded on "almost nothing," Christie became "even madder."
- Not to pat myself on the back too much, but I have been saying over and over that the deal was scuttled because of Gearhart. No one in the press has bothered to report on this until now; I guess they can't ignore it at this point.
The people of NJ need to know this about their leader: when a radio guy - a RADIO guy - says "Jump!" Christie asks "How high?" Is this the bold leadership we crave here in NJ?
- Can we stop pretending that Christie's fight with the union has even the slightest thing to do with policy? He doesn't care about policy AT ALL.
My best guess is that this started out as personal for him, but he quickly found out he could get a permanent seat on cable TV news and flights on private jets around the country if he kept up this stupid and counter-productive act.
Everybody is concerned about where this country is headed, and very, very few people in positions of power and influence have bothered to create a narrative that suggests that severe economic inequity, brought on and maintained by the wholesale buying of our government at all levels, is the reason why.
Carnival barkers like Christie have stepped into that vacuum and created a fairy tale that blames some "other" for our problems: "It's the public workers!" If Christie were the governor of Texas, I'm sure it would be, "It's the illegal immigrants!" It doesn't matter who the finger is pointed at, as long as it's pointed away from the rich and powerful who actually control this country.
Christie found a union-bashing formula that allows him to take people's eyes off of the ball; even better, he doesn't have to look like a racist jerk when berating public workers. The fact that his plans are stupid and will do absolutely nothing to alleviate the tax burden of the middle class, save public education, or revive the NJ economy does not matter.
Get it through your heads, teachers (and cops and firefighters and all other public workers): he is using us. There is not one thing we could do to stop him from vilifying us. Don't expect accommodation; instead, fight him - and win.
- Bret Schundler - I just don't know about this guy. Is he really a true believer, a la Jack Kemp? Is he seeing another camp lining up in the conservative world (the David Frums or the Paul Mulshines), and he thinks that this is his only hope?
I do know that the type of conservative he at least presents himself to be has pretty much exited from the national stage. You can't work with these people anymore - don't even try. Even McCain has gone over to the dark side (although he was always a cynical coot who blew wherever the latest wind took him).
But no matter what - he sold out the family business, betraying the golden boy of the moment for the wing-nuts. He's dead to them...
You broke my heart, Bret...
(Adding: Why do I think, one day, some idiot pundit will read this and write: "Christie's critics have gone so far as to compare him to a murdering gangster"?)