The clerical error that played a role in New Jersey losing out on a Race to the Top grant has now played a role in the dismissal of the state’s school chief.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has fired his education commissioner, Bret D. Schundler, in the midst of a controversy over the state’s failure to win a $400 million education grant, the governor’s office announced Friday.
A clerical mistake in the state’s grant application had led the state to come up short by just three points in the high-stakes competition, known as Race to the Top. Mr. Christie had defended his administration’s actions on Wednesday, in part by insisting that Mr. Schundler had provided the correct information to federal reviewers in an interview two weeks ago.
But federal officials released a video on Thursday showing that Mr. Schundler and his administration had not provided the information when asked. Mr. Christie, asked later Thursday about the videotape in a radio interview, said he would be seriously disappointed if it turned out he had been misled.
That same evening, the governor’s chief of staff, Richard H. Bagger, called Mr. Schundler to ask for his resignation, Mr. Schundler said in an interview.
Mr. Schundler said he told Mr. Bagger that he was willing to resign. “I said I know that I serve at the will of the governor, so if he would like me to leave I would leave,” he said.
But on Friday morning, Mr. Schundler said, he asked Mr. Bagger if he could instead be fired, citing his need for the unemployment benefits.
“I thought we were a very good team,” Mr. Schundler said. “I thought we worked together and that we made a very good start. And I’m disappointed.”
In a statement, the governor said he “was extremely disappointed to learn that the videotape of the Race to the Top presentation was not consistent with the information provided to me by the New Jersey Department of Education and which I then conveyed to the people of New Jersey.”
“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.
“As I have said before, I never promised the people of New Jersey that this would be a mistake-free administration,” the governor continued. “However, I did promise that the people serving in my administration would be held accountable for their actions. As I said on Wednesday, I am accountable for what occurs in my administration. I regret this mistake was made and will do all I can to have my administration avoid them in the