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The Education of Chris Christie

Old 08-28-10, 02:29 PM
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The Education of Chris Christie

New Jersey governor Chris Christie seems to be in some hot water, and the temperature is only going up.

It started when New Jersey missed out on a big education grant from the feds. Of course, Governor Christie explained, it was all Barack Obama's fault:

Attacks Fly in New Jersey for Losing Out on $400 Million Education Grant
By SHARON OTTERMAN
Published: August 25, 2010

It was, according to New Jersey’s governor, a $400 million mistake.

The state was drenched in recriminations on Wednesday as Gov. Chris Christie said a clerical error by a midlevel official had caused the state to lose out on $400 million in federal school reform money — an error that caused its Race to the Top grant application to fall short of the 10-member winner’s circle by just three points.

The mistake, reported Tuesday by The Star-Ledger of Newark, resulted from a failure to correctly read a straight-forward question worth not quite 5 of the competition’s 500 points. The application asked states vying for billions in federal funds to compare their 2008 and 2009 school budgets to illustrate their commitment to education financing. Instead, a New Jersey official, whom the governor would not identify, compared the state’s 2010 and 2011 financing, thus forfeiting the points.

Not so fast, the state’s largest teachers union responded. The real problem was the governor’s failure to secure support from a large number of school districts — which cost more points than the clerical error and was cited specifically by some judges as a weakness.

In a lengthy news conference on Wednesday, Governor Christie, a Republican, said he took ultimate responsibility for the error, which “believe me,” he said, “I am not thrilled about.” But he said no one would be fired over the matter, then he assumed his signature anti-Washington tone. The Obama administration, he said, should have called, or checked the state’s Web site, when it discovered the error, which was on just one page of a 1,000-page application.

“That’s the stuff that drives people nuts about government, and that’s what the Obama administration should answer for,” he said. “When the president comes back to New Jersey, he is going to have to explain to the people of the state of New Jersey why he is depriving them of $400 million that this application earned them, because one of his bureaucrats in Washington couldn’t pick up the phone and ask a question.”

It was an ignominious end to a process that had already been marred by broken agreements and name-calling between the state government and New Jersey’s most powerful teachers’ union, the New Jersey Education Association, which Mr. Christie regularly criticizes as an intractable barrier to progress on school reform.

After the state’s failure to reach the finals of the first round of the federal competition under the leadership of Gov. Jon S. Corzine, Mr. Christie’s commissioner of education, Bret Schundler, hammered out a draft agreement with the union in the days before the second round application was due. He and the union said they thought that would increase the state’s chances.

But Mr. Christie, deciding the compromise had severely weakened the state’s ability to carry out measures derided by the union — like establishing merit pay for individual teachers, using student test scores as a primary measure of a teacher’s performance and making it tougher for teachers to get tenure — rejected the agreement announced on May 27.

That left the state with little more than the Memorial Day weekend to complete a new version of the application, which was due that Tuesday. In the end, only one person was assigned to review the checklist for the 700-page appendix to the grant application, Mr. Christie said Wednesday. In the future, with an application of such magnitude, two people will be assigned to the task, he said.

Justin Hamilton, a spokesman for the federal Education Department, said no state had been allowed to change its application after the June 1 deadline, in the interest of fairness.

Mr. Christie cited only the clerical error in explaining the state’s loss, but a look at the score sheet, released on Wednesday, showed that the state lost more points in other areas of its application, in part because it got only 59 percent of its 645 school districts to agree to carry out Race to the Top reforms, and only 1 percent of its unions. In New York, which was among the winners, all districts signed on.

Barbara Keshishian, the president of the New Jersey Education Association, said the state’s loss was a direct result of Mr. Christie’s misguided decision “to reject the collaboration required by the U.S. Department of Education.”

New Jersey lost 14 points for the union’s lack of support, by Mr. Christie’s own accounting, and 16 points for its failure to make as much progress on statewide student and teacher data systems as other states. Even in the area with Mr. Christie’s most aggressive changes, in educator certification and evaluation, the state came up 14 points short.

But because the clerical mistake appeared to be a stunning error, not policy, it ended up at center stage. The Assembly Appropriations Committee announced it would hold an inquiry into how the mistake happened.

“Anyone that has been involved in a grant application process knows that there are rules involved,” the Assembly speaker, Sheila Y. Oliver, said. “We don’t do that in our own state, allow special dispensation for people who made a mistake when applying. If in our own process there are no do-overs, how can we want one from Washington?”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/26/ny...race.html?_r=1

Now, one might suggest that mistakes are likely to happen when one scraps an application at the eleventh hour and attempts to redo it in a matter of days, but let's put that aside. With a 1,000 page application, it's not too surprising that mistakes will be made, and maybe the feds should take some heat for not accommodating that.

But then ...

New Jersey Governor Fires Education Chief
By SHARON OTTERMAN

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 future.”
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/20...mmissioner/?hp

Oops! It turns out it's not Obama's fault -- it's Schundler's fault! Well, that hits a bit closer to home for Governor Christie -- he's got to blame one of his own people instead of a Washington Democrat -- but so be it. New Jersey lost out on 400 million, but at least it wasn't Chris Christie's fault, right.

Right?

NJ schools chief fired after Race to the Top gaffe

By BETH DeFALCO and GEOFF MULVIHILL

(AP)

Gov. Chris Christie fired his education commissioner Friday, days after it was revealed that a simple mistake on an application might have cost New Jersey 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 and blamed the U.S. Education Department for considering form over substance. Christie said this week that Schundler gave the federal government the missing information during a meeting in Washington this month. 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."

In an interview at his Jersey City home Friday, Schundler responded that he gave the governor's staff the right story.

He said he met with Christie on Wednesday before the governor talked to the media about the grant application error.

"I told him stuff that he had said wasn't accurate on Wednesday morning when he was telling me what he was going to say to you guys," Schundler told a group of reporters. "I said, 'Stop. Where you say I gave the numbers, I did not give them the numbers.'"

He also shared printouts of e-mails from Tuesday that he says show that he accurately told the governor's public relations office what happened during the meeting in question. On one, he writes an account that was backed up by the video: "All we could do was confirm that we had erred _ the 2008 data was not included," he says.

Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak said Schundler is misrepresenting what he told the governor's office verbally and misinterpreting the emails to try to cover up that he misled the governor.

"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 occurred in the Race to the Top presentation. All of the Governor's statements were based on Mr. Schundler's account."

Schundler said he was asked to resign, but he requested to be fired instead so he could collect unemployment insurance.

"I have a mortgage to pay and a daughter about to start college," he said.

Schundler, who served as Jersey City's mayor for most of the 1990s, was an unconventional choice as a member of the governor's cabinet.

As a Republican, he broke ground to become mayor of Jersey City, a diverse city dominated by Democrats.

He's known as a policy wonk and an intellectual, a conservative from a big city and a long-winded politician who has trouble making soundbites. He was known for helping Jersey City become a major outpost for Manhattan's financial industry and for pushing charter schools.

He ran for governor in 2001 as a conservative antiestablishment candidate, and he pulled off a surprising victory in the Republican primary, but lost in the general election.

He later taught, then was chief executive officer at The King's College, a Christian liberal arts school housed in the Empire State Building.

He came to the education commissioner's job as one of New Jersey's most fervent advocates for opening up public schools to competition by expanding publicly funded charter schools and allowing taxpayer money to be used for scholarships for students to attend private schools.

It seemed he might also be a key player in supporting Christie in his campaign against the power of the New Jersey Education Association, the state's main teachers union.

But that's not exactly the way it turned out.

In May, just before the Race to the Top grant application was due, Schundler made some compromises on the merit pay components of the proposal to win the endorsement of the NJEA.

Christie rejected those compromises and submitted a grant application that didn't include them.

NJEA President Barbara Keshishian said Friday that firing Schundler amounted to making him a scapegoat for a mistake that she contends the governor had a role in creating.

Derrell Bradford, executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone, which advocates greater school choice, called Schundler's dismissal "dramatic."

"Bret is a grand champion for this agenda, for the education reform movement, as is the governor," Bradford said. "The agenda is still being advanced because it's bigger that any one person."

State Assembly speaker Sheila Oliver, a Democrat, welcomed the firing.

But she says she's still moving ahead with a hearing Sept. 7 on what went wrong on the Race to the Top application.

"New Jerseyans deserve an honest accounting from Gov. Christie about what truly happened with this costly error," she said.

The state Senate is holding a similar heading Sept. 23 and inviting Schundler.

On Friday, Christie named Assistant Education Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks to be acting commissioner while a search is conducted for a permanent replacement for Schundler.
http://www.pressherald.com/news/ap?articleID=5210991

I wonder where Governor Christie will point the finger next? I also like the irony of the loss of a federal grant causing so much havoc among the "smaller federal government" crowd. Mr. Schundler demanding to be fired rather than resigning so he can get unemployment makes me laugh too.

As an aside, the first article doesn't mention that Governor Christie is a Republican until the fourth or fifth paragraph. The other two don't mention it at all, though the latter mentions that Mr. Schundler is a Republican. I wonder what bhk is up to these days?
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Old 08-28-10, 06:53 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Obama was supposed to change this stuff. Poor kids.
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Old 08-28-10, 10:02 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Holy shit, Race To The Top is the biggest bunch of crap I have ever seen. Washington State had to push a bunch of school districts to actually fill out the application at the 11th hour as well, and it was pretty well known that we wouldn't get it anyway. I, and a number of other school board members around the state, said, "great!" because this is possibly the only education legislation that actually makes No Child Left Behind look like good policy. And make no mistake, NCLB was the worst federal education policy to ever shoot out the pooper of the federal government. Every state that is not in it will find they are better off without it, its red tape, and its rewarding of poorly performing schools. The best way to make sure you get money is to make sure your school sucks. Great idea.

Christie is one of the few governors that actually seems to be taking care of his state's screwed up fiscal situation. Oregon could certianly learn a few things from NJ.

I am constantly blown away how terrible federal education programs are. Bush was the first I saw while in office, and I thought he was an absolute moron for proposing what he did. Obama taught me that they are all morons. "Hey, I have a great idea for educational reform. It all hinges on the idea that one program for inner city Detroit will work equally well for rural Iowa. How smart am I?"

There are good Libertarian reasons to get the feds out of education. The actual best reason is that they are so completely lost on how to get anything done, and Race To The Top is just another example.
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Old 08-28-10, 10:06 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

mark my words on this.....in 2 years the number of "poorly performing schools" will go up. It will mean one of two things: 1) Race To The Top managed to do absolutely nothing, or 2) schools have found that they report things in such a way to qualify for more money because only the poorly performing schools get money.

Great fucking plan. It's like offering more money on welfare if you have more kids and then being stunned by the number of welfare mothers who are having more kids. Shocking!
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Old 08-28-10, 10:27 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Maine came in 33rd (suck it Montana, Alabama, and Mississippi!)

I wonder if John "more hair than charisma" Baldacci will fire Susan Gendron?
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Old 08-29-10, 11:53 AM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
mark my words on this.....in 2 years the number of "poorly performing schools" will go up. It will mean one of two things: 1) Race To The Top managed to do absolutely nothing, or 2) schools have found that they report things in such a way to qualify for more money because only the poorly performing schools get money.

Great fucking plan. It's like offering more money on welfare if you have more kids and then being stunned by the number of welfare mothers who are having more kids. Shocking!
I get that we shouldn't reward schools for failing. At the same time, aren't the worst schools the ones that need the most help?
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Old 08-29-10, 02:35 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

The only people who really benefit from NCLB and Race to the Top are education consultants and companies that sell professional development programs. I remember having to sit through "Quantum Learning" before I started my first job and it was the stupidest fucking thing I've ever seen.

The 4:10 mark in this video is the perfect example of what their program teaches.

<object width="480" height="385"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/QPJNTiNQ4XM?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/QPJNTiNQ4XM?fs=1&amp;hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="480" height="385"></embed></object>
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Old 08-29-10, 04:20 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by MrX View Post
The 4:10 mark in this video is the perfect example of what their program teaches.
Teaching ethnic minorities to dance like white people?
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Old 08-29-10, 04:38 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Has anyone thought of blaming Obama for this? Because I'm seeing a lot of people taking personal responsibility, but no one is exploring the option of blaming Obama.
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Old 08-29-10, 04:42 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by Suprmallet View Post
Has anyone thought of blaming Obama for this? Because I'm seeing a lot of people taking personal responsibility, but no one is exploring the option of blaming Obama.
Check the original article, where Governor Christie complains that it's the Obama administration's fault for not catching his people's mistake.

To be fair, he does acknowledge that he has ultimate responsibility for the error.
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Old 08-29-10, 08:58 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by JasonF View Post
I get that we shouldn't reward schools for failing. At the same time, aren't the worst schools the ones that need the most help?
Certainly they need the most help, but we are blind if we think that needing help equates to needing more money. Most districts that "need help" already qualify and get more grants than other schools, and they are still where they are. What we need to do is recognize that in order for schools to be successful we need to hold parents more accountable as a large portion of their child's success. We also need the ability to get rid of poor teachers more easily. Washington State is doing much of this on their own. Use to be that you could get rid of a first year teacher for any reason after their first year. In truth, a year isn't enough time to evaluate a teacher right out of college, and generally what you want to do is give them support to make them a better teacher. But if it goes another year, you are screwed. It is now two years, and next year (I believe) it goes to 3 years. Things like that and being truthful about the parents role in their childrens education will do far more than money.

Personally, I think most politicians recognize this, but understand the political realities of putting much blame on parents instead of big, nebulous "schools." In fact, they will rarely ever mention teachers but instead blame the support they get from their schools. It's a way of blaming no one that can be held accountable, but still be able to win support.
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Old 08-30-10, 09:32 AM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Christie is a disaster.

The only thing I know about Race to the Top is that the teachers unions HATE it. It has some sort of provisions that evaluate teacher performance in exchange for the grant money. The horror!
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Old 08-30-10, 09:49 AM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by CRM114 View Post
Christie is a disaster.

The only thing I know about Race to the Top is that the teachers unions HATE it. It has some sort of provisions that evaluate teacher performance in exchange for the grant money. The horror!
from the article:
New Jersey lost 14 points for the union’s lack of support
I don't understand that part. Why would union support be part of the evaluation?
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Old 08-30-10, 09:57 AM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

“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.”
He didn't do enough! He could have gotten one more student… and he didn't. And he… he didn't.
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Old 08-30-10, 12:07 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by CRM114 View Post
The only thing I know about Race to the Top is that the teachers unions HATE it. It has some sort of provisions that evaluate teacher performance in exchange for the grant money. The horror!
I haven't found anyone in education that likes it, be it the unions, the teachers, administation, etc.

One thing that hurt Washington State (I'm sure) is that we don't allow charter schools. One could say, "well, why don't you allow charter schools then?" It was put to a statewide referredum vote and the citizens of the state knocked it down. So there was nothing the state could do to reform it.

I suppose supporters of charter schools might have some reason to like RTHT, but not having any, I haven't heard support.

Time will tell. The Eastern Seaboard and Hawaii are the ones who got the money. Let's see their test scores in 4 years and see if this did anything.
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Old 08-30-10, 12:29 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Anyone that likes funding and teacher accountability likes it.

To answer Venusian, districts either supported going for the grant or not. Districts had to get their respective union to buy in because it has provisions that tie teacher evaluations to compensation or something. So if the union said no, the district would not submit. In our county, only two districts unions agreed to it. The one's who value increasing funding over their protecting bad teachers.
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Old 08-30-10, 12:48 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Come on, you are going to say this is a good thing but No Child Left Behind wasn't? They are both crap, and that will be shown. Though you may try to find a way to justify this one. It won't do shit.
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Old 08-30-10, 01:04 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
Come on, you are going to say this is a good thing but No Child Left Behind wasn't? They are both crap, and that will be shown. Though you may try to find a way to justify this one. It won't do shit.
You're so mean, bursting bubbles and skewering unicorns. I guess the Gryphons have won.
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Old 08-30-10, 01:53 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
Come on, you are going to say this is a good thing but No Child Left Behind wasn't? They are both crap, and that will be shown. Though you may try to find a way to justify this one. It won't do shit.
I don't put much hope in either. My kid goes to private school. BUT this one at least holds teachers' feet to the fire. Which I guess in some ways is unfair since teachers will get the blame for horrible parents.
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Old 08-30-10, 02:52 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by CRM114 View Post
I don't put much hope in either. My kid goes to private school. BUT this one at least holds teachers' feet to the fire. Which I guess in some ways is unfair since teachers will get the blame for horrible parents.
Teachers will also benefit from good parents.
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Old 08-30-10, 03:19 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by CRM114 View Post
I don't put much hope in either. My kid goes to private school. BUT this one at least holds teachers' feet to the fire. Which I guess in some ways is unfair since teachers will get the blame for horrible parents.
This will not hold any teachers feet to the fire. They may claim that, but that can be done now and isn't.
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Old 08-30-10, 04:21 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by JasonF View Post
Check the original article, where Governor Christie complains that it's the Obama administration's fault for not catching his people's mistake.

To be fair, he does acknowledge that he has ultimate responsibility for the error.
You didn't catch my silent smilie!
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Old 08-30-10, 05:06 PM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

New Jersey was pretty lax in putting together their application. I know mine was as well. NJ and WA both knew they would never get the unions to sign off on this.
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Old 09-02-10, 10:53 AM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Delaware was the first state to get it.

I don't know if that's good, or bad.
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Old 09-02-10, 11:53 AM
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Re: The Education of Chris Christie

Originally Posted by The Bus View Post
Delaware was the first state to get it.

I don't know if that's good, or bad.
You can say a lot of things about Delaware's government, but it's not inefficient.
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