Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Christie, teacher exchange angry words

Here's a huge chunk of a confrontation between Chris Christie and a teacher at a townhall event in Raritan, New Jersey (video below).

It's another good example of Christie's leadership style, and also one of the more entertaining battles of the extended war between himself and the teachers union since he became governor.

TEACHER: I'm a teacher across the street, and I wonder how your reforms are gonna help the middle-class when so many middle-class teachers have been laid off this year and so many middle-class teachers are spending tons of money out of their pockets to supplement the budgets that were cut so that they can buy supplies. And so many parents are having to outlay more and more money for programs that were originally paid for by the school districts.

And I'd also like to say: New Jersey has some of the best schools in the country, and this administration [Christie's] has done nothing but lambaste us and tell us what horrible schools we have. We have some failing schools, but the majority of our schools are wonderful and fantastic and this school district has many of them.

And I feel like you have alienated so many people with your rhetoric about how we are bilking the state of all this money when I'm a taxpayer and because of the budget cuts that you have implemented, I'm going to have a hard time paying my bills this year.

CHRISTIE: Well, a few things.

First of all, I have not lambasted the public school system in the state of New Jersey. What I have lambasted -- well, listen, let's start with this.

I sat here, stood here, and very respectfully listened to you. If what you want to do is put on a show and giggle every time I talk, well then I have no interest in answering your question.


So if you'd like to conduct a respectful conversation, I'm happy to do it. If you don't, please go and sit down, and I'll answer the next question. What's your choice?

[Her choice was to listen].

First, the cuts we made this year were the result of a loss of $1 billion in federal aid that was used as a one-time hit to artificially boost education funding in New Jersey. I didn't have that billion dollars to spend. President Obama spent it one time, and Jon Corzine spent it all in one year in his reelection year. So I had a $1 billion hole to fill in the state education budget with declining state revenues. Despite that, I only cut $820 million from the budget, which means that we spent an additional $280 million in state tax funds on K-12 education -- more than was spent by Jon Corzine in the year before.

So this idea that somehow I cut the state support of K-12 education is wrong. We lost $1 billion in federal funding.

Second, my lambasting and my rhetoric is directed very clearly at one set of people and that is the leaders of the teacher's union in the state of New Jersey.

They were given an option -- in a time that everyone in this economy is suffering when we have had people in the private sector who have been out of work for years and are continued to expect to pay their propetery taxes or they will lose their homes -- I asked teachers across the state of New Jersey to take a 1 year pay freeze, and to contribute 1.5% of their salary towards their health benefits for those who didn't contribute already. The teacher union's response was that this was the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state.

Ask the people in the private sector in the state of New Jersey when the last time was they got a raise, yet the average teacher contracts before I became governor had 4.9% annual increases in an era when we are at zero or 1% inflation.

Now that can't be justified any longer.

.... the teachers union made a decision. They would rather stand by their current contracts and make no compromise despite our awful economic circumstances, and they allowed members to be laid off.

[Hat tip: @KevinMadden]