Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lesson Noted

Cross-posted to Blue Jersey

There’s a difference between a “lesson learned” and a “lesson noted.”  When you observe a mistake and understand its root cause, that’s a “lesson noted”.  When you take corrective action to ensure that the root cause is eliminated so that the mistake does not recur, that’s a “lesson learned.”  The debacle over the Christie Administration’s mishandling of the Race to the Top application for federal education funds has an important lesson noted.

Initially, Governor Christie, whose team’s last minute changes to the application introduced errors that resulted in the state being disqualified, blamed the Obama administration and a state mid-level official who introduced the error during a last-minute frenzy to undo the agreement between the Commissioner of Education and the teacher’s union.  When the Obama administration insisted on playing by the rules, Christie asked the Feds to apologize for not ignoring the errors in the proposal.

Subsequently, videotapes of the oral presentation of the New Jersey team showed that this was more than a clerical error, and the team was unprepared to support the requirements of the proposal.   Christie, looking for a scapegoat, fired Commissioner of Education Bret Schundler.  As far as I know, the governor has yet to apologize to the Obama administration for the false blame.

Now, imagine what would have happened if the federal Department of Education had not videotaped or not released these proceedings.  Bret Schundler would still be Commissioner of Education, and the governor’s false statements would be unrepudiated, treated as truth by the mainstream media.  The public’s right to know the truth about how how their officials are performing and how their tax dollars of being spent would have been compromised.  Clearly, we need more transparency in similar types of government evaluation and decision-making.

Chris Christie ran for governor on a platform of transparency, and the Shundlergate affair shows that this is one of many campaign promises that the governor is ignoring.

Transparency is important, especially when the use of our tax dollars is at stake.  Lesson noted.  Now, we must transform this to a “lesson learned” by implementing full transparency at all levels of government.  Taxpayers deserve nothing less.