I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Friday, February 17, 2012

The War on Teachers Unions Hits a New Low

Just so classy:
In its escalating war with the New Jersey Education Association, the state’s Republican Party recently turned to a new tactic: ambushing the head of the union with a video camera in the hope of capturing an embarrassing YouTube moment.
The association said Thursday that having videographers lurking outside their offices in hooded sweatshirts and knit caps showed the lengths to which Republicans would go in an effort to demonize educators.
"That’s as low as you can go," said Steve Wollmer, an association spokesman.
Republicans said they were simply trying to hold the association’s top official responsible for "insensitive" remarks about poor children trapped in struggling school districts.
Yeah, that's all they were doing. I'm very sure it wasn't about intimidation or anything like that; after all, it's standard journalistic practice to lurk outside a union office. And these guys were just citizen journalists, right?
The two videographers were identified as Jared Pilosio, a former Christie aide who earned $40,000 a year while on the staff, and Tom Szymanski, a Rowan University student who heads the state’s New Jersey College Republicans.
Neither man could be reached for comment.
As it turned out, the pair never captured Giordano on film because he was not at work at the time. But other employees said that as they arrived for work, the two men asked them whether they were Giordano and if they cared about urban school children, according to Wollmer.
Oh, dear: I guess they had a bit of an agenda after all...

Josh Henne sums it up nicely:
In light of today’s news that Governor Chris Christie’s backers were staking out New Jersey Education Association offices in an attempt to ambush staffers with video cameras, it seems clear there is more of a focus on carrying out a political vendetta against a Christie-picked opponent than actually having a serious discussion on how to best improve the state and New Jersey’s schools.
Not satisfied with merely using taxpayer-funded town hall meetings to generate manufactured YouTube moments of outrage, Christie’s political team is now resorting to James O’Keefe-style stunts. In their blind vendetta against an organization they deem a political enemy, these Christie backers weren’t even sure whom to tape – running up to random people on the street and shouting out a name in hopes that it was their target.
Video tracking by political campaign at public events is commonplace. In fact, it has become part and parcel of 21st century campaigning. But sending young men dressed in hoodies and knitcaps to harass people at random on their way to work goes beyond the pale.
I'd just add one thing: this incident is the latest piece of proof that education reform is not a policy issue for Christie; it is a political issue. Anyone who is honest about Christie's war with the NJEA has to acknowledge that his motivations are solely political motivations. If he was interested in crafting policy, he would have sat down with the union long ago and tried to work out a deal and actually get something done.

But he doesn't want that. He couldn't care less about tenure reform and merit pay and teacher evaluations; all he cares about is the optics of battling with the "greedy" union. If the NJEA wanted New Jersey's kids to have chocolate ice cream, he would scream at them that strawberry is the only acceptable flavor and that they are obviously in the back pocket of the Hershey's syndicate.

You can't compromise with a man who has a stake in making you the enemy.  It really makes me crazy that so many members of the state punditocracy can't see this.


Anonymous said...

I definitely agree that Christie's education policy is just to stick it to NJEA. But I think theres worse political tactics than this. The NJEA are mainly bureaucrats and activists they should be prepared for this type of stuff. Simply ignoring these people and saying no comment would be better. Whats more outrageous to this NJEA member is the $2000 yearly my wife and I are forced to pay for lame ads that convince no one. NJEA was unable to protect our health insurance or our pensions but thank goodness they support gay marriage (as if thats what a TEACHERS union should be concerned with). They are continually being outpaced by the gov's allies in the awful ed reform movement and we are always reacting to them rather than proposing reforms and changes of our own.

Duke said...

Anon, I have shared your frustration with NJEA at times, but I have to disagree with you on several things:

- Marriage Equity. This is most certainly an issue NJEA should be involved in. Lack of ME affects NJEA members and students.

- "No Comment." It clearly does not work. Yes, NJEA has to get better at its message, but it would be a mistake not to engage, IMHO.

- "Protecting insurance and pensions." Yes, NJEA lost, and that's not good. But never forget who pushed this nonsense: Christie and the Christiecrats. NJEA had to react to their mendacity - THEY are the villains here.

- "Proposing reforms." But they did: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/10/nj_union_recommends_one-year_r.html And it's a good plan.

Lately, I see my role as this: NJEA fights for us at the statehouse and bargaining table. We have to fight for NJEA elsewhere.

But I agree with you that they have to get better at messaging. The world has changed and they need to change with it. You and I have to get involved with them and start pushing them in the right direction.

Thx for commnting.