I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Time To Move On..."

Of course Christie wants to move on: RTTT was an enormous embarrassment and highlighted both his hair-trigger temper and his rush to judgement.

Problem is, even though Schundler now admits he made the changes that created the error on the final RTTT application, his explanation for why he made the changes is very, very weak:
Schundler said today he "must have" edited out the previous years’ information because he didn’t have the question in front of him — just the answer — and assumed the federal government would want current information.
"That’s the thing I can’t understand. That’s so fundamental and such a big screw-up," he said. "It’s amazing to me that we screwed up in this regard. It’s amazing to me that I screwed up in this regard, and that others — that we screwed up as a team."
Schundler said a bevy of lawyers, consultants and education department employees were editing and fact-checking the application throughout the week before it was due June 1. He said he spent much of last week trying to piece together the edits before the deadline, checking through his computer files, but could not pinpoint when the error was made.
I'll tell you when the error was made: right after your boss sold you out by reneging on your deal with the NJEA because a radio DJ got angry. But as I've blogged before, there's no way to read the two answers and conclude that this was an innocent mistake. The corrected answer disappeared the fact that Christie slashed the school aid budget in 2010.

Is it a coincidence that you just happened to change the one answer that made your boss's education cuts look bad? I don't think so. I also think those cuts would have demonstrated to the judges that NJ's new leadership is not at all interested in maintaing adequate funding to schools, a "necessary pre-condition" for school reform - it's quite possible we would have scored WORSE had the original answer been left in.

Some are saying, "Who cares? There were lots of other things wrong with the application." NJ Left Behind does make a few good points - here as well - as to the other reasons why NJ lost out in the final round - although I'd argue that the low buy-in from local districts and the nearly total lack of union support hurt the application more than anything (why the districts and unions would want to buy into the entire premise of RTTT anyway is another matter).

But "moving on" and "focusing on the real reasons we lost" keep us from looking at the fundamental lessons to be learned from all of this:
1) Chris Christie, like almost every other Republican these days, is a slave to his talk-radio-lovin', tea-gulpin' base. 

2) Chris Christie will always put his own political ends above policy - even policy he espouses. 

3) In the face of overwhelming evidence of Christie's craven pandering and cowardice, the NJ media will continue to portray him as an honest actor, no better or worse than his opponents. 
There are big debates coming this year about two things that matter a great deal to teachers: pensions and teacher assessment using value-added modeling (VAM). If we are to win these debates, we can't afford to forget the lessons above.

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