Republican Gov. Chris Christie, dealing with a political payback scandal that threatens to damage his second term, intends to unveil a plan to increase the amount of time children spend in public school in his State of the State message on Tuesday.
The governor, widely seen as a potential 2016 presidential candidate, will propose lengthening the school day and the school year, according to excerpts of the speech, which were obtained by The Associated Press.
Christie says children who spend more time in school are better prepared academically. He’s expected to leave details of the proposal, which are being worked out with Education Commissioner Chris Cerf, for another day. [emphasis mine]One of those pesky details: how are you going to pay for it?
There's not a doubt in my mind that Christie will want to teachers to work longer for no additional money - this after having already degraded the value of our pensions and benefits, after forcing us to pay more for health care, and after essentially capping wages by imposing the property tax cap.
How much more are we expected to give? How much more are our families expected to sacrifice because we chose to be teachers? But even leaving that aside, consider the following:
- Does Christie have a plan to install air conditioning in every classroom in the state? If not, does he expect teachers to teach and students to learn in the summer without it? Will he turn off his own air conditioning in solidarity if he can't come up with a way to pay for it?
- Too many of NJ's students are trapped in unhealthy, dangerous classrooms.
Now he wants them there longer hours in the hot summer months?
- Christie's own children attend a school where they get three full months off in the summer - that's less than many other NJ public schools. Of course, his kids can take advantage of a wide variety of summer enrichment activities (they can also get summer jobs - are we going to deny that to NJ's teenagers now?). What does Christie want NJ's kids doing - more drill-and-kill while his own kids are down the shore?
- Do parents really want this? Undoubtedly, extra time at school is good for children who don't have other good options. But many parents - myself included - are worried that suburban kids are getting burned out. My kids have enough going on as it is, what with sports and music and extracurriculars and church and jobs and lord knows what else. How about giving them a break?
Until Christie presents a serious proposal to do just that, let's call this what it is: a distraction.
Stop asking me about Bridgegate and get back to work!