Bret Schundler, a former Jersey City Mayor and gubernatorial candidate who attracted national attention for his support of school vouchers and charter schools, is Gov.-elect Christopher Christie’s choice to head the state Department of Education.
Christie waged a public battle against the state teachers unions during his campaign for governor, and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) spent a huge amount of money in a bid to re-elect Gov. Jon Corzine. Christie has continued to toss barbs at the teachers union since Election Day.
Schundler, 50, also feuded with the NJEA during his nine years as mayor and as the Republican nominee for governor in 2001. In 1993, a Wall Street Journal editorial identified Schundler as the National Education Association’s “Public Enemy #1” because of his school voucher initiative.
“I want to save inner-city public schools by forcing them to improve,” Schundler told the WSJ, in comments echoed fifteen years later by Christie. “They may have a monopoly now, but no one enjoys working in them. They are an urban tragedy.”
After graduating Harvard in 1981, Schundler worked as a congressional aide before embarking on a successful Wall Street career. He ran a strong but unsuccessful race for State Senator in the heavily Democratic 31st district in 1991, and then won a special election for mayor in Jersey City in 1992 after Gerald McCann was removed from office following his criminal conviction. Schundler was re-elected in 1993, and again in 1997 against then-Municipal Court Judge Jerramiah Healy.
Schundler was the GOP nominee for governor in 2001, but lost to Democrat James E. McGreevey by a 56%-42% margin. He ran again in 2005, but was narrowly defeated in the GOP primary.
He is a Professor at The Kings College, a small Christian school in Manhattan, and serves as the school’s chief operating officer.
If confirmed by the Senate, Schundler would replace Lucille Davy, who has held the post since 2005.