Gov. Christie Fires N.J. Education Commissioner

Bret Schundler Expresses Disappointment Over Aid Debacle

TRENTON (CBS 2/1010 WINS) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie sacked his education commissioner Friday in an embarrassing fiasco — complete with video tapes — that cost the state $400 million.

Late Friday afternoon the newly fired Bret Schundler spoke out.

After Gov. Christie gave him the heave ho as education commissioner, Schundler had to run the gauntlet of reporters outside his Jersey City home, but he was tight lipped about the firing.

CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer: “Mr. Schundler can you say anything? Give us any kind of reaction?”

Schundler: “Nice to see you but no.”

A few hours later he talked.

“I thought we made a good team. I’m disappointed,” Schundler said. “I thought we were working well. And I think we had the ability to do great things here. I am hopeful that the department will continue to do great things with the governor.”

Schundler and the governor apparently had it out Friday in Trenton, where the reportedly furious chief executive demanded Schundler’s resignation after the federal Department of Education released a video that appeared to contradict Schundler’s story that he had verbally given federal officials the specific information that was left out of the state’s application for $400 million in aid.

“We were unable to find the application the funding levels, the school education funding level, specifically for the years 2008 and 2009 as requested,” an official on the video said.

After the unseen questioner asks for the information, Schundler turns to an assistant and both appear to be struggling to provide an answer. The assistant, when asked if she could explain where the information is, said, “No, I cannot.”

Schundler reportedly told the governor all the information was provided, and based on that, the governor publicly attacked the Obama administration for denying New Jersey funds.

Sources said the governor decided to get rid of Schundler because he felt he lied to him.

Christie issued a terse statement Friday, saying: “I was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape was not consistent with the information provided to me by the New Jersey Department of Education.

“As a result, I ordered an end to Bret Schundler’s service as New Jersey’s education commissioner and as a member of my administration.”

The handwriting was on the wall Thursday night. Christie was asked about the video on a radio show. He said he had just learned about it, adding that if it were true he would be seriously disappointed.

“I don’t know about not nice. And when am I seriously disappointed I am serious,” Christie said.

Schundler said he asked the governor to fire him, rather than resign, so he can collect unemployment benefits to pay his bills. He has a big mortgage and a daughter who just started college.  But Christie’s press secretary Michael Drewniak said Schundler indicated he would resign Friday morning, but later refused.

“We regret that Mr. Schundler continues to sully his own image by engaging in revisionist history,” Drewniak said, “Mr. Schundler was the administration’s only source for what occured in the Race to the Top presentation.  All of the governor’s statements were based on Mr. Schundler’s account.”

Not lost on Christie, a rising national Republican star, sources said, was the obvious attempt by Democrats to embarrass him.

“I think the Democrats, particularly the Obama folks, when they knew they had this tape, they knew they had Bret Schundler saying certain things. They thought, ‘Wow, we can we whack Chris Christie on this,’ and they were probably salivating,” said political activist Steve Adubato.

New Jersey’s Democratic establishment wasted no time piling on.

Senate President Stephen Sweeney said the governor’s decision to fire Schundler wont stop the questions about how New Jersey lost $400 million in desperately needed education aid.

  • Banjoman

    Your kidding me. I can’t believe what I read and just saw on the video!!! Christie blows the budget and gives teachers and other school employees the pink slips, screws up and now costs us $400M by NOT checking to see that the grant forms were filed properly and on time. Now he fires Brett so that he can collect unemployment because he has a “high mortgage” and “kids in college”. I wonder what kind of under the table package Brett is getting and how much of the educational budget is part of that. You know damn well he is not walking away empty-handed. If you ask me, Christie should resign!

  • Steve

    A bit unprofessional the way this network handled the story. First off, if the guy will be losing his job, my hassle him. Give him some space, you can see he has a long day ahead of him. Secondly on 1010 Wins today your network said that he refused to comment today, when in fact he did later on in the day.

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  • deciminyan

    Shifting the blame just shows the Governor’s character. See

  • Simon Malle

    The Governor should take a long hard look at what his administration is able to offer the citizens of New Jersey. For the Governor not to have the shear insight to ensure the accurateness of the submission by the NJ Education Commissioner, demonstrates the careless and his complete removal of overall responsibility due to the people of New Jersey. The running of the State of New Jersey, at this time in a critical fiscal budgetary accross all deparments, requires astute and completely devoted responsible leaders. Gov. Chris Christie has clearly demonstrated his ineptitude to prove to the State of New Jersey that he has the needed credentials to run the great state of New Jersey. As a New Jersey Republican, I am sorry to say this will be the beginning of more fiascos to come. To ensure now that the state of New Jersey is able to continue its busines, and in particular, the education of its youth, requires us to implement greater oversight of our public officials. It is a very sad day in New Jersey politics, and the future of our childrens education. God help us.

  • Ronnie

    Christie is still passing the buck. He absolutely refuses to accept any responsibility. Not a sign of a good leader.

  • Wayne R. Serbin

    I guess you could say this guy goofed up.

  • Sydney

    How is the commissioner going to collect unemployment insurance if he was fired?

  • JSS

    LOL A few days ago, Christie was blaming Obama for this fiasco. Now he’s blaming his own appointed Education Commissioner. It looks like everybody BUT Christie is to blame.

  • birdwall

    To the editor: another thing for you to correct–the application grant was 260 pages, not 1,000 pages as repeatedly claimed by Christie. Go to to find a link to the accual application which clearly shows it was 260 pages. It is telling that Christie couldn’t even get that right. He has no one to blame but himself because he is the one who appointed Schundler to his cabinet.

  • Dymond.

    These are the people running the government. Christie should fire himself twice. Once for not cross checking his references and two for allowing a moron to run the show on his watch. This is why America is in a pickle.

  • Roy

    If he was a man,he would have resigned,first he screwed up the states child protection ageny,now our education department…once a political hack,always a political hack… least he can retire with his $100,000.00+ pension

  • witze55

    Doesn’t anyone in Jersey read documents before hey sign them??

  • pooorpeddler

    Now if we could get the rabble in DC to stop saying no we may be able to get out of this mess Bush and the conservatives got us into. Christie and he gang blame Obama for everything.

  • Rich

    didn’t this Schundler guy run for governor?

  • For The Record

    Editor: I believe you need to correct the third sentence, which currently says, “Federal officials never provided correct information.” In fact, STATE officials never provided the correct information.

  • ed

    Of Course those childre that dont have well to do dads

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