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N.J. Lawmakers Sort Out Facts In ‘Race To The Top’ Error

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(AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

(AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

TRENTON, N.J. (CBS 2) – Administrators with the New Jersey Department of Education are on the hot seat Tuesday over the $400 million mistake that led to the firing of the state’s education commissioner and a war of words with Gov. Christie.

Hearings at the New Jersey State House were held to discuss what went wrong in the mistake that cost the state millions in education funding from the Obama administration’s “Race to the Top.”

It’s been reported that it was a simple clerical error in the 1000-page application submitted by the State Department of Education, and former education commissioner Bret Schundler, fired by Christie in the fallout, is being blamed for the mistake.

Assistant and now-acting education commissioner Willa Spicer took over after Schundler’s exit, and said he had the final stamp of approval.

But the hearing Tuesday revealed a timeline of missteps.

The clerical error was made during back and forth email edits over Memorial Day weekend, leading up to the June 1 application deadline. It was then discovered around Aug. 5, days before a videotaped Race to the Top interview on Aug. 11, which showed Schundler making no immediate attempt to correct the mistake – just days after he returned from a two week vacation in Peru.

Dan Guhl, an advisor to the state on the “Race to the Top” application, was the first to notice the costly mistake, and said he pointed it out to the consultants on the project, a company called Wireless Generation.

But Schundler has taken the fall, as he said in a statement Tuesday, “I take full responsibility for it and I apologize for it. Now I am praying that legislators don’t use my error as an excuse to let education reform in New Jersey die.”

Members of the state assembly say they’re simply on a fact finding mission to make sure this kind of mistake never happens again.

Schundler was invited to testify at Tuesday’s hearing, but declined.

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