Here’s what happens when folks in charge of education can’t answer simple questions correctly.
Since taking office in January, New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie has been in a highly visible, very personal battle with the teacher’s union, the NJEA. Christie slashed the education budget and then demonized teachers as overpaid bureaucrats. NJEA officials fired back, noting that the heavyset governor loves cutting budgets but NOT his caloric intake. It’s been nasty.
Last May, New Jersey had to prepare its submission for “Race to the Top,” a federal program that grants funds to states that demonstrate a commitment to education reform. The 10 highest-scoring states would win significant federal grants. NJEA officials and Christie’s commissioner of education sat diplomatically together and answered the 1000-page questionnaire.
Over Memorial Day weekend, the Governor’s office revised the submission to incorporate some new policies which the NJEA had refused to endorse. Unfortunately, one answer to a question that asked for data from the years 2008-9 was revised incorrectly, using data from 2010-11. As a result, when it was sent to Washington, the submission was dinged 5 points, and New Jersey placed 11th, just 3 points shy of a critical 10th-place finish . Which cost the state $400MM in federal funding.
Okay kids, can you spell “RECRIMINATION”?
“(The Governor) basically hijacked the whole process for his own political purposes”…”This is like losing 200 points on the SAT because you didn’t write your name on the top sheet”…”It’s astonishing that the administration’s failure to proofread their own homework would lead to losing out on this funding”…and on and on and on….
Christie blamed Washington, saying “(Obama) is going to have to explain why he is depriving us of $400 million because one of his bureaucrats in Washington couldn’t pick up the phone (to get the right data).” To which Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg responded, “Blaming President Obama is like blaming the teacher when you didn’t do your homework.” It’s nasty.
And so, as the war of words erupts among the adults, the kids are heading back to school. There they will find there are fewer activities, fewer supplies, and a lot fewer teachers (some 4000 or so may lose their jobs).
The new school year hasn’t even begun, but the kids have already received an excruciating lesson. Civics 101: Fat Cats and Bureaucrats.