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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

America, Meet @GovChristie: Teacher Bashing Hypocrite

The Reading Zone points us to a video of Chris Christie out on the campaign trail doing what he does best: bashing teachers.

Q: Which do you regard as a bigger threat to the nation: ISIS, or our K-12 education system. 
CHRISTIE: (Laughs) Both.

America, meet Chris Christie: a man who will merrily compare public schools to terrorist groups.

We Jersey folks have become used to this: after all, Christie has compared teachers to drug dealers, told students their teachers don't care about their learning, and excoriated teachers for using pronouns to describe their students. No, I am not making this up.

There are three reasons Christie engages in such juvenile, unpresidential behavior. First, he has a personal beef with the New Jersey Education Association, the state's largest teacher union. The NJEA  has not backed down to his bullying, and that pisses him off to no end.

Second, Christie needs a scapegoat for his many, many failures as governor. He has a terrible job creation record, a terrible tax record, a terrible record of management, a terrible environmental record, a terrible public health record, and a terrible disaster recovery record. Plus Bridgegate. And the ARC tunnel. And our tanking credit rating. And housing. And his personal greed....

Chris Christie's record is quite clear: he is a truly horrible governor. I'll admit that, for once in my life, I am looking forward to an extended presidential primary season, just so I can watch all the other Republican candidates repeatedly recount his disastrous reign in Trenton.

Third -- and I do not say this lightly, but there is no other conclusion I can come to after watching the man closely for over five years -- there is something seriously wrong with Chris Christie:

I mean, what kind of a leader behaves this way? Heaven forbid the man ever obtains high office, but if he did: would he yell at hecklers while visiting a foreign country? Am I the only one terrified at the thought of a man this intemperate having his finger on the nuclear button?

America, Chris Christie is simply not qualified -- by his record, by his actions, or by his character -- to be the leader of the free world. We in Jersey know this, and it's increasingly clear that the rest of you know this as well. Still, because Christie is so self-deluded that he thinks he has a shot, you will be subjected to his incessant teacher bashing for the next year.

Let's, therefore, set the record straight:

- Christie talking point: We spend too much in urban districts like Newark, Camden, and Asbury Park, but those districts are "failing."

Reality: First, a-contextual complaints about school spending are idiotic on their face.

Even high school students understand that children growing up in poverty benefit from increased resources, and that a large and growing body of research shows that school finance reform can make a meaningful difference in student outcomes.

New Jersey consistently ranks as one of the best-performing statewide education systems in the nation. This is due, in part, to a commitment to school funding equity, which the evidence shows has helped lower-income and minority students to raise their performance on test-based measures. Unfortunately, New Jersey has backed away from its drive toward funding equity under Chris Christie, with increasingly disastrous results.

It's also worth pointing out here that the three examples Christie gives -- Camden, Newark, and Asbury Park -- are his responsibility. The state has controlled Newark's schools for two decades. Christie took over Camden's schools after the district had been under a state fiscal monitor for years. Asbury Park has also had a long-time fiscal monitor, who reports to the Christie administration.

If Chris Christie thinks Newark, Camden, and Asbury Park schools waste money, he should blame himself, because he is directly responsible for their management.

One final bit of screaming hypocrisy on Christie's part: even as he complains about spending in school districts with many at-risk children, he sends his own children to private schools that spend far in excess per pupil what those districts spend.

- Christie talking point: New Jersey community colleges have high remediation rates.

Reality: As I've said before, blaming K-12 education systems for community college remediation rates is ridiculous when the majority of students in community colleges have been out of high school for at least several years.

As Rowan's Eric Milou points out, the placement tests for community colleges set unrealistic standards. How well does anyone think Chris Christie himself would do right now on an Algebra II test, where he'd have to apply the quadratic equation and use logarithmic and exponential functions?

I must admit, Christie isn't the only one to engage in the college remediation nonsense. But that he would do so when he is the governor of one of the highest-performing states in the nation is incredible.

- Christie talking point: Schools haven't changed in 100 years, with teacher-directed instruction dominating classrooms.

Reality: This shows as well as anything how little Christie knows about how schools actually work. Teachers with high-quality training have known for years that student-centered instruction is an important counterbalance to teacher-centered instruction.

The only teachers who engage in rampant teacher-centered instruction appear to be those who receive low-quality training, like that found at the Relay "Graduate" School of Education, a program run by relatively inexperienced teachers, with no scholars of education on faculty, who tell their trainees to treat their students like trained seals.

Christie has allowed this style of "education" to proliferate in his state, even as he decries teacher-centered instruction. The mind boggles.

- Christie talking point: Schools days and years should be longer. The current system was built on the agrarian calendar, but kids should be in school longer these days.

Reality: Only the ignorant believe the agrarian calendar is the reason schools take a summer break.* And there is no evidence lengthening the school day improves learning, absent other factors.

Of course, Christie's own kids go to schools with shorter years than the public schools. But his kids get to partake of high-quality supplemental learning opportunities during the summer, full of sports and SAT prep and travel** and the like. Everyone else gets to sit in a classroom.

- Christie talking point: We don't have a longer school day because "the teachers union likes to be off four or five months a year. They like to get a full-time salary for a part-time job." 

Reality: Teachers make less than similarly credentialed workers. I know Christie is being fed data points generated by the conservative think-tank industry, but these reports are garbage (judge the arguments side-by-side for yourself if you think I'm wrong).

In any case, I find it laughable that Chris Christie wants teachers to work more hours for no more pay even as he gives away hundreds of millions of dollars in fees to hedge fund managers who underperform. Apparently, more money for inferior work is OK in some sectors of the economy, but not others.

As to having schools open during the summer: even if teachers worked more for no more pay, how would he come up with the money to air condition all of New Jersey's classrooms? Because I can guarantee you: if the AC ever broke down at the governor's office, Chris Christie would never walk through the door until it was fixed.

- Christie talking point: "In New Jersey, in the places where we spend the most money, we get the worst results."


Depending on the measure, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters of the variation in test-based student outcomes can be explained by student poverty measures. But Chris Christie has done nothing to alleviate childhood poverty.

- Christie talking point: Charter schools are getting better results, because kids are spending more time in the classroom.

Reality: If children don't have good opportunities outside of schools for supplemental learning activities, they are certainly better off being in school for a longer period (they should be engaging in high-quality opportunities in a rich variety of learning domains). But that costs money. How do I know? Because the "successful" charter schools Christie lauds have shown this to be true:

North Star and TEAM/KIPP, two "successful" Newark charter schools, pay their teachers more than the neighboring public schools, even when accounting for experience. They are able to do so for three reasons:
  1. They rely on large amounts of philanthropic giving.
  2. They churn their staffs, so they only have very few teachers with relatively large amounts of experience.
  3. They educate a student population with fewer at-risk, limited English proficient, and special needs students; the special needs students they do educate have lower-cost needs.
Contrary to how some have mischaracterized my work, I do, indeed, think public schools have something to learn from North Star and TEAM/KIPP: money matters, and student populations matter. Because when you strip away the advantages in both of these factors, you find that these "high performing" charter schools are really quite average.

- Christie talking point: Every kid should have an iPad.

Reality: OK -- how are you going to pay for that? Or are you also going to blame the teachers union for a lack of technology in the classrooms?

- Christie talking point: We need to motivate our students.

Reality: Please explain to us, governor, how we can get more teachers capable of motivating students into our schools when you break your explicit promises to them? When you refuse to properly fund their pensions, in contradiction to your own law? When you continually insult them? When you refuse to allow them to have a say in their own profession? When you target experienced teachers of color working in urban schools repeatedly?

America, Chris Christie has done more damage to public schools and the teaching profession than any governor in the history of New Jersey. If you care about education, he is the worst possible man to put in the White House.

Remember this as he continues with his self-delusional bid for the presidency. Chris Christie is a failure on education, as he is with everything else.

Stop pointing out my record! I'm an awesome governor! Everyone loves me! If they don't, they're idiots!

* I know this is petty, but it really does bug me as a kid who grew up working on a farm: no one "tills the fields" in the summer. The planting is already done by then.

** OK, I need to be fair: that $30K trip to Jordan was during the spring. But his family does take extensive summer vacations

It's also worth pointing out that Christie's own Lt. Governor says 10 percent of the state's jobs depend on tourism. How would extending the school year, therefore, affect the Shore economy? Did Christie ever stop to ask such an obvious question?


Giuseppe said...

From the top video: the man (with the UK or Aussie accent) asks, "Which do you regard as a bigger threat to the nation: ISIS, or our K-12 education system." What a vile, despicable and demeaning question, just mind-bogglingly vicious. There's a definite war against teachers and it gets dirtier every day. Later Christie says that his kids are upset with him for promoting longer school days and years which would not affect them since they're in an elite private school. What an incredibly shameless opportunist.
I am still stunned by that question comparing our schools to ISIS, beyond belief.

czarejs said...

Giuseppe, don't be surprised. That was a set up question if I ever saw one. He doesn't answer any question that isn't staged. BTW....did you notice how he made a mistake at the beginning of his rant and admitted kids who start of badly in school also start off in the worst economic conditions? He had to cover that little tidbit real quick by switching to how much money we spend. Also notice the guy in the blue shirt sitting behind him in the video? Looked like he couldn't stomach the b.s. I wish I could've heard that guys thoughts.

The Classic Brown said...

This is so well-written. Thank you so much for being a voice of reason in the theatre of the absurd.

This is my message to Christie: Tell us what you really think about teachers... we work a part-time job for a full-time salary? We don't want to work longer hours unless we get paid? THE MOST EFFECTIVE LOBBYISTS IN THE WORLD, IN TERMS OF THE DAMAGE THEY'RE DOING TO THE AMERICAN SYSTEM, IS THE TEACHER'S UNION?!!?!? Parents are working multiple jobs to pay the bills, so teachers should work longer days? How about raising the minimum wage so parents can see their kids. Most teachers I know are in at 7am and out at no earlier 4pm.
I'M about to do quarterly reports on my Sunday, unpaid. I grade, plan and email parents, students and colleagues on evenings and weekends. Ask them. And I don't complain about that--it's what I signed up to do. But don't tell me I don't put my time in.

Nunziata Ziata said...

I think the Governor should go back to school for math. If the law states that public schools need to be teaching students for 180 days - divide that by an average of 20 days a month that comes to a minimum of 9 months students are in class. Of course, not all months have 20 days, such as during winter and spring break, so that means students are attending public schools for at least ten months. If I am doing my math correctly, there are 12 months in a year, take away the 10 months I'm teaching with student, that leaves 2 months where I am not working and not getting paid. Of course, I am working a second job, because I need to earn money during July and August, so I personally do not get any time off, except the winter and spring week.

I would like to compare the PAID time off most people in Corporate America get. Most of them get a minimum of two weeks off. Others get way more, such as our elected officials.

I could find data to prove what the truth. To misrepresent how many months we work is just one of the easily proven lies that the Governor is going around the country saying about public educators.

The only truth I heard in the video was when the Governor said charter schools are NOT public schools because they can do what they want. Thank you Governor for admitting what we public school workers know to be the truth. You cannot compare public schools and charter school, nor can you be a charter school and say you are a public school.

StateAidGuy said...

Christie is right about Asbury Park being overaided. Nearly half of Asbury Park's state aid ($24 million out of $55 million) is from Adjustment Aid, meaning that Asbury Park is getting significantly more money than NJ's progressive aid formula (SFRA) says that it needs.

There are numerous districts in NJ that are more underaided and underfunded than Asbury Park. 117 districts don't even get 50% of what they are supposed to get. Asbury Park's Adjustment Aid should be redistributed to needier districts. Asbury Park can make some cuts and if it wants to avoid cuts it can raise its unusually low 0.56 tax rate.