No great debate shakes Schundler’s Education Committee appearance

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TRENTON – Gov. Chris Christie’s nominee to run the state Department of Education, Bret Schundler sits in front of a microphone in front of the Assembly Education Committee and hears Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing) tell him she looks forward to working with him.

A walking red flag school choice advocate to those harder nosed defenders of public school education, Schundler appears to have an early friend in Watson Coleman.

“I very much support the concept of public choice,” the veteran assemblywoman tells the former mayor of Jersey City.

Schundler affirms.

It’s an exchange that reflects what is to come: a showering of bipartisan praise on the controverisal nominee, with Democrats eager to outdo the GOP in oratorically embracing Schundler.

The discussion hinges mostly at this point on platitudes buoyed by various combinations of buzzwords: schools are the future; children are the future; children in good schools are the future.

Now Assemblyman Brian Rumpf (R-Little Egg Harbor Twp.) throws Schundler a question about schools consolidation and the nominee straightens.

“It’s incumbent on us to create the kinds of rules governing consolidation and shared services that we can so at the local level decisions can be made that are in the best interest of the community,” Schundler says.

There is no jagged edged consideration of vouchers.

Assemblyman Joe Malone (R-Bordentown) speaks.

“You bring a different dynamic to this office than anyone else I have seen since I’ve been in the legislature,” says the veteran lawmaker. “You are the most unique. …You will have a daunting task ahead of you to make sure you fund the educational institutions of this state.”

Assembywoman Elease Evans (D-Paterson) pipes up.

“You are qualified for the position,” she says. “You are a visionary. Those of us who represent large urban districts need someone who has an understanding. The whole system needs a complete overhaul.

“You have a challange in front of you.”

Not if the Assembly Education Committee is any early indication.

Stifling laughter, a gleeful Republican off the record says, “They’re not used to it, the Democrats. We’ve been cross-examining for years in the minority, but this is what one-party rule gets you.”

No great debate shakes Schundler’s Education Committee appearance