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

Thursday, November 7, 2013

What Happened Tuesday?

I've listened to a fair bit of punditry and read a fair bit of opinion about Tuesday's election results. And it still doesn't make sense to me.

I'll leave Virginia out of this because I really didn't follow the race. But here in Metro NYC, we had two big, contiguous races. Both ended in landslides - but for candidates who couldn't be more different:
  • Bill de Blasio is an unreserved progressive whose biggest policy plan is to tax the wealthy and use the funds for Pre-K. 
  • Chris Christie never met a tax on the wealthy he didn't want to slash. His biggest policy win over the last four years was reneging on his promises to public workers that he wouldn't touch their pensions. His biggest policy goal of the next term is undoubtedly to gut SFRA, NJ's school funding equity plan, putting urban school districts on a path to destruction.
I really don't think the Five Boroughs and the Garden State are that much different; they're different, but not so much that you would expect landslides in two different directions. I suppose every race is unique, and we could spend hours debating about Barbara Buono's leather jacket and Dante's afro and Sandy and Christie's weird relationship with the NJ press and how much everyone hates Generalissimo Bloomberg and so on. But if you can see a pattern, you're a better political prognosticator than I.

Maybe my confusion comes from an admittedly narrow view: I keep wondering what all this means for teachers. The only guy in America who hates teachers more than Mike Bloomberg is, of course, Chris Christie. de Blasio - even though he didn't get the UFT's endorsement - seems much more amenable to the profession. Even with contract negotiations coming up, I can't imagine him going around comparing teachers to drug dealers, or making stupid comments about how we come from the bottom 20%.

And yet that's Christie's stock-in-trade, and it looks like he's getting warmed up for another big round of teacher bashing:

Maybe New Jersey has to go through another four years of this boorish blowhard before we finally get it. Hell, it took twelve years of Bloomberg before Gotham finally woke up to what a creep he is. George W. Bush, Christie's political mentor, earned a second term even though he was a train wreck; it didn't take too long after the second election, though, before people realized just how unqualified he was to be president. Maybe it's just a matter of time before Jersey sees that Chris Christie is little more than a petty, mean, incurious thug.

In any case, my advice to New Jersey progressives - not just us in the real education reform movement, but all progressives - is not to be intimidated. Democrats held the Senate and Assembly... yeah, OK, that was all part of Christie's deal with the NJ Dem machines, but it does mean we aren't about to become a right-to-work state any time soon (unless I am very mistaken, which, when it comes to politics, I admit happens now and then: I thought this, for example, was going to be a huge blow for Christie. It wasn't.).

More importantly, the minimum wage initiative passed with a slightly larger margin than Christie's win. Doesn't that say something about how shallow Christie's support really is? His coattails are so small he couldn't even win one Republican chamber, and an initiative he was dead set against passed resoundingly. People might like the fleece, but they are far from sold on the policies.

So, as far as education goes: let's not back down on full funding for SFRA. Let's stand up for our children and put a moratorium on high-stakes testing. Let's stop Operation Hindenburg, the insane teacher evaluation plan, before it blows up in our faces. Let's not allow taxpayer money to be thrown away on unaccountable, unsuccessful "virtual" charters. Let's stop the rush to expand charter schools which are engaging in highly questionable practices. Let's not gut our teacher preparation programs in our excellent New Jersey colleges and universities for teacher prep programs of dubious quality.

And, most importantly: let's not allow Chris Christie's presidential ambitions to de-professionalize teaching. If he wants a war with us so he can appease Tea Baggers in Super Tuesday states, fine: bring it on. We won't back down, and we won't allow him to gut New Jersey's great public schools just so he can take a shot at the White House.

Let the end of Chris Christie's failed reign commence.

ADDING: How long until Education Commissioner Chris Cerf is out of here? Thoughts on this in a bit...

Come on, Joel, return my calls...


Giuseppe said...

Christie had the advantages of being the incumbent governor, a celebrity, a media star, "charismatic" (in a NJ101.5 kind of way) and having the backing of some very powerful right wing billionaires. He had made all kinds of deals with powerful NJ Democrats. All kinds of New Jerseyans voted for Christie because they believed this myth that he is honest. I'm really hoping that not too many teachers voted for Christie but who knows? Nothing honest about CC but he is smart, savvy, ruthless and Machiavellian to the nth degree.

Irene said...

And everyone with a second home down the shore voted for him. Terrible.