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, May 28, 2015

The Screaming Hypocrisy of @GovChristie On Education

Chris Christie has never made a serious education policy proposal in his career. 

So let's not pretend for a second he's started now:
And so, today, I am directing the Commissioner of Education, David Hespe, to begin immediately to assemble a group of parents and educators to consider developing New Jersey educational standards – New Jersey College and Career Readiness Standards. 
I want New Jersey parents and teachers to be the driving force behind the establishment of these new standards. I want New Jersey business partners, New Jersey school administrators, and New Jersey school boards to work together in this important effort. 
I have heard from far too many people – teachers and parents from across the state – that the Common Core standards were not developed by New Jersey educators and parents.  As a result, the buy-in from both communities has not been what we need for maximum achievement. I agree. It is time to have standards that are even higher and come directly from our communities. 
And, in my view, this new era can be even greater by adopting new standards right here in New Jersey – not 200 miles away on the banks of the Potomac River.
Where do I even begin?

- "Not developed by New Jersey educators..." When did Chris Christie ever care what teachers think about anything? When he put together his Educator Effectiveness Task Force, he included only one working teacher, and no members of the largest teachers union in the state, the New Jersey Education Association.

The task force issued a report so incoherent and so unworkable it has led to the current, disastrous teacher evaluation system I call Operation Hindenburg. Had Christie actually bothered to include us teachers in his plans, he may have developed something that could have helped schools and students. Instead, he has set the state up for a lawsuit the first time a teacher is fired, because the current system is innumerate.

No politician in the history of New Jersey has listened less to teachers than Chris Christie. It's absurd that he pretends that he wants educators to be involved in any aspect of education policy.

- "The buy-in from both communities has not been what we need..." Buy-in from teachers?! Is he insane?!

This is a man who compared us to drug dealers, told us we were greedy, told our students we didn't care about their learning, and said we only care about having summers off. Now he worries we haven't had "buy-in"?!

No politician in the history of New Jersey has done more to demonize and denigrate the teaching profession than Chris Christie. The thought that he is suddenly concerned that we haven't had enough "buy-in" is laughable.

- "...and come directly from our communities." Maybe Christie was on another one of his many, many, many, many out-of-state trips and he missed it, but the largest student protest this state has ever seen happened in Newark this week, literally shutting down access to and from the city. Why?

Because the good people of Newark -- as in Paterson, Jersey City, and Camden -- have been completely disenfranchised when it comes to the governance of their schools. Just today, Mayor Ras Baraka demanded the removal of the hugely unpopular State Superintendent in Newark, Cami Anderson, based on her incompetence, mismanagement, and record of failure.

This egregious disdain for democracy and self-rule is blatantly racist:

It's worth noting, however, that local districts across the state have had to deal with Christie's meddling for years. The imposition of the onerous PARCC exams this year was a huge unfunded mandate, as was the previously mentioned new teacher evaluation system. Now Christie wants to shirk his responsibility to fund teacher pensions and force local districts to make up for his own inability to balance New Jersey' books.

No politician in the history of New Jersey has done more to destroy local control of schools than Chris Christie. The man who personally appointed Cami Anderson and took over Camden's schools has no business pretending he cares about what "our communities" think.

- "It is time to have standards that are even higher..." But who cares about having higher standards if you aren't willing to pay what it costs to achieve them?

New Jersey's intensely segregated schools have thousands of students living in poverty, or who don't speak English at home, or who have special eduction disabilities. The state itself passed a law, after great debate, that dictates the costs of educating children with these special needs. Yet every year, Chris Christie has refused to fund this law, with profound consequences

As of now, New Jersey schools are a collective $7 billion behind what the law itself says they need to adequately educate our children.  But Christie refuses to collect the revenues necessary to fund this law, wasting funds instead on fruitless tax gifts for corporations that have done nothing to improve our state's economy.

No politician in the history of New Jersey has done as much damage to the finances of our schools as Chris Christie. It is sickening to watch him call for higher standards when he refuses to do his job and fund our schools properly.

I'll get to the Common Core stuff in a bit. For right now, though, take a minute and think about how utterly hollow Chris Christie's words are. Think back on his previously education proposals, and how they were nothing but naked political ploys, utterly devoid of substance.

America, take it from those of us living in Jersey: this man doesn't care one whit about the Common Core, or education standards, or anything having to do with school policies. Chris Christie's sole interest in education policy is in its worth as a political tool: a tool to diminish the strength of unions, demonize public workers, and shift the focus off of his own many, many failures as governor.

When the Bridgegate scandal blew open, Christie decided to unveil a useless initiative to lengthen the school day and year, hoping to get the press talking about anything other than his out-of-control staff. It never went anywhere -- and why would it? Once it had served its purpose as a distraction, it went away.

There is a serious debate to be had about the Common Core -- but Chris Christie really couldn't care less about the issue. So long as he harbors delusions of gaining of national office, this man will use New Jersey's education system in any way he thinks will gain him political points.

In a sane world, anything Chris Christie says about education policy would be ignored.


Giuseppe said...

Talk about a flip flop (with an emphasis on flop). The man risked breaking his back with such ideological acrobatics.

jcg said...

There's an odd similarity to Christie's strategy & the one we've encountered in TN. Republican governors are facing a backlash from their conservative voters who, like progressives, reject the Common Core standards (both groups have different reasons but share in the effort to stop implementing them).
The TN lege started to panic over CCSS so in DEC the state embarked on rebranding TNCOre aka,Common Core. TN set up a "commission" to "review" TNCOre standards that was comprised of educators & university professors. The review process required citizens to read through hundreds of standards agree or disagree & comment in an online survey in a few month's turn around time. This impossible task was nothing but an empty process that gave the illusion of public & educator input.

BuzzFeed connects the dots by showing NJ, TN, FL & possibly other Common Core rebranding strategies are being coordinated from Arne's DoEd:
Question: How can we build a creative and innovative education system when political powerbrokers & private foundations are determined to dictate a standardized national curriculum? Do we want clones or thinkers in our next generation?
Authoritarians really despise democracy.
Not change we can believe in.

gfb9+2/3 said...

Iirc he wants to scrap the Common Core but to keep the assessments and continue to use those as a tool to label kids, close schools and demoralize and fire teachers.
IMO there are some good parts in the math standards but nothing but grief in the SBC or PARCC assessments, especially the uses to which they are put. So this is like throwing out the baby and keeping the nasty poopy bath water.

Seth Kahn said...

Jazzman, your first point (that Christie has never cared what "educators" think) raises an important point I've been thinking about for a long time now.

By using the term "educators" instead of "teachers," he's showing that he still doesn't giving a flying [censored] what teachers think. He can include Broad Academy-trained TFA alums who act as CFOs for charter school management firms, and because they're involved in the education industry, they're "educators."

And while I want to accuse him of rhetorical gamesmanship for exploiting the ambiguity of the term, it's not just the Education Deformers who do it. I think those of who teach at any level (I'm a university faculty member) have contributed to the deprofessionalizing of teaching by abandoning "teacher" as our umbrella term. When we need to sound authoritative, we call ourselves "educators." But by doing so, we allow anybody who can also claim that term the same authority we have.

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Rebecca deCoca said...

Seth has a really good point, though I don't know that it's the fault of teachers, although we do need to push back. I remember 30 years ago reading an article in Time or Newsweek about a survey of 800 "educators" about education reform. I was aghast to see all these "educators" were either principals or local union leaders; not one classroom teacher in the bunch. (And not only have most principals and union leaders been out of the classroom for many years, most of the principals I've known have been failed teachers: they didn't like teaching, had taught very little, and didn't know how to do it well.) So this has been going on for a long time, and now it's worse, as Seth said, with all these people involved in the education "industry".