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Christie Fires Education Chief Over Race to the Top Grant Loss

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FILE: New Jersey Education Commissioner Bret Schundler was fired by Gov. Chris Christie on Friday after Schundler made a deal with the state's teachers union to win support for a U.S. education grant application. The deal was not approved by Christie and changes afterward to the application resulted in New Jersey losing $400 million in federal grant money. (AP)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced he was firing his education commissioner Friday, days after it was revealed that a simple mistake on an application form might have cost the state a $400 million education grant.

The dismissal of Commissioner Bret Schundler comes after New Jersey became the top runner-up for the Race to the Top grants, missing out by only a few points. The Star-Ledger of Newark later reported that budget figures for the wrong years were supplied in one section of the application.

Christie had defended Schundler on Wednesday, saying he gave the federal government the missing information during a meeting in Washington this week. But a video released Thursday by the federal Education Department shows that wasn't the case.

"I 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," Christie said in a statement Friday. "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."

Schundler, a former Jersey City mayor and gubernatorial candidate, is an outspoken proponent of educational reform and was an unconventional choice as a member of the governor's cabinet.

There was tension between Schundler and Christie, both Republicans, earlier over the Race to the Top application. Schundler made compromises on the proposal to win the endorsement of the New Jersey Education Association, the state's main teachers union.
Christie rejected those compromises.