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, December 30, 2011


Regrets... I've had a few...

Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday said that not getting his proposed public education overhaul through the Legislature is his biggest regret of 2011.

The governor wants to implement merit pay for teachers, take away some of the job protections provided by tenure and to use publicly funded scholarships to send children in failing public schools to private schools. None of those measures has picked up much traction in the Legislature.

“The biggest disappointment is that we didn’t get any education reform and we really need to,” he said in an interview on WOR-AM radio Thursday. “My parents moved me out ofNewark because they wanted me to have a better public education.”

Yeah, your folks moved your family out of Newark because of the "schools." Sure they did...

Governor, let me explain to you exactly why you are such a complete and abject failure on education reform:

You have no respect for teachers or the teaching profession. You and your acolytes have tried to hide behind the notion that you love teachers; that it's the merely union that you can't stand. That's garbage: you've called teachers drug mules said teachers have used their students like drug mules*, said there was "greed and excess" in the schools, told children their teachers didn't care about them, and mocked the work ethic of those in the profession. No self-respecting teacher wants to work with you because you've made it quite clear you have no respect for us.

Your attacks on teachers and unions have gone far beyond the normal bounds of tough political rhetoric. You have attacked the NJEA's commitment to children in a way that is embarrassing to the entire state. Your hand-picked ACTING Eduction Commissioner as much as called the NJEA racists. You have distorted statistics and denigrated our students' achievements to make New Jersey's high-performing schools appear to be worse than they are. You applaud the work of sleaze peddlers like James O'Keefe, who attacked a teacher who literally risked her life to save children.

You have blamed the ills of this state almost exclusively on public workers and teachers in particular. You lied to teachers in your campaign about protecting their pensions. You refused to tax millionaires even as you slashed benefits for teachers while mischaracterizing those benefits as "gold-plated," further fueling resentment against educators. You placed school budgets in jeopardy while foolishly calling for a freeze (it was really a cut) in teacher salaries - a freeze that would have done next to nothing to help the state's budget. You refused to acknowledge the long-standing fact that teachers are nowhere near overpaid.

You have consistently refused to work with teachers unions, to the point of actually jeopardizing your own stated policies. You lost a federal grant because you placed your personal vendetta with the NJEA above the state's educational and fiscal needs. You refuse to even acknowledge serious proposals for reform from the unions.

You do not listen to teachers and have excluded them from all important decisions. You appointed only one working teacher to a panel on teacher effectiveness. You have excluded teachers from secret charter school approval panels. Your DOE pushes teacher evaluation schemes that do not have adequate time for analysis.

You continue to push policies that show no evidence of achieving success. You overemphasize inaccurate and expensive standardized testing. You push merit pay, vouchers, charter schools, and tenure "reform" when there is no evidence any of those policies will help student achievement. And you push the policies in schools and districts that even you must acknowledge are doing a great job educating kids.

Governor, it has become painfully apparent to many that you are pushing an agenda, for whatever reason, that is simply not in the best interests of the children, the parents, the educators, or the taxpayers of this state. And, unfortunately for you, large numbers of these people - many of whom used to be part of your political base - have had enough.

You, sir, are a failure because you have neither the talent nor the temperament to run this state. It is obvious to many of us that you love the sound of your own voice more than you care to seriously solve the problems we face. It is obvious that you would rather bask in the self-manufactured glory of a stupid fight with teachers - teachers! - than actually get serious and make our schools better for our kids.

You should, indeed, regret your failures on education "reform," Governor, and you should blame no one for those failures but yourself. You are a terrible leader and it will take decades to undo the damage you have wrought in our schools and the teacher corps. In two years, we'll begin to clean up your mess; until then, we'll fight you every step of the way to keep you from making things wrose.

Every day, we are better organized, louder, and tougher. We're not going to be bullied or intimidated any more. We will continue to push back harder and harder until you're gone.

Count on it.

* Corrected: Sorry, Christie said the kids were the drug mules; which made the teachers drug pushers. That is, of course, far worse.


Anonymous said...

Don't forget the willingness of the democratic machines to help destroy public education in NJ.

Have you seen this gem?


Duke said...

Yes, I have. More to come.

Bill Wolfe said...

Agre completely.

There is a similar ideological attack and demonization going on in the realm of environmental policy.

I wrote yesterday about the injection of harsh spin into policy at DEP, see: (snake title)

DEP wins press prize

I also wrote about the school segregation issue in this post awhile ago:


Rosie banned me over at Bluejersey because I criticize Dems.


Anonymous said...

Good post except for the implication that Christie is wrong about anything. How do you explian the NJEA suddenly going belly up this summer and announcing their own "reform platform" for the "education-system-that-needs-no-reform"? Why is the NJEA suddenly suggesting tenure reform, teacher evaluations, merit pay, etc?

Because they are desperately needed, despite the internet drug mule messaging of the socialist left wing. Not for our schools, not for public education, for our CHILDREN. Remember them? The ones of whom that teacher's union head said " "When schoolchildren start paying (teacher's) union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of schoolchildren."

Duke said...

Anon, I have a little challenge for you:

Find one instance - just one - where the NJEA or any teachers union has said the education system in NJ does not need improvement. Until you find that, I'll treat your first paragraph as the silliness it is.

"Socialist" left wing. Sure, OK, not hyperbolic at all...

Farah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stuart Buck said...

"You applaud the work of sleaze peddlers like James O'Keefe, who attacked a teacher who literally risked her life to save children."

Well, he caught her on video saying that a teacher has to be caught in the hall "f***** somebody" to get fired, and that a teacher she knew only got demoted for calling someone the n-word. I don't think she should have been punished, though -- she was just accurately reporting the facts about tenure, wasn't she? Can't punish someone for telling the truth.

Stuart Buck said...

"You push merit pay, vouchers, charter schools, and tenure "reform" when there is no evidence any of those policies will help student achievement."

I agree with you on merit pay, but this is absolutely false as to vouchers and charters. Here are 11 studies for you finding that charters help student achievement. http://stuartbuck.blogspot.com/2011/08/charter-school-research.html Agree or disagree with these studies, it is indisputably untrue to say there's "no evidence."

Duke said...

Stuart, none of the studies you cite show any proof that the charter successes that are out there are in any way replicable on even a modest scale. Which is why folks like Geoffrey Canada and the KIPP crew have pulled back from expanding their schools in places where they have shown gains in student achievement.

Matt DiCarlo puts it very well:


The available research suggests that charter schools’ effects on test score gains vary by location, school/student characteristics and other factors. When there are differences, they tend to be modest.


Finally, while there may be a role for state/local policies in ensuring quality as charters proliferate, scaling up proven approaches is constrained by the lack of adequate funding, and the few places where charter sectors as a whole have been shown to get very strong results seem to be those in which their presence is more limited. Overall, after more than 20 years of proliferation, charter schools face the same challenges as regular public schools in boosting student achievement, and future research should continue to focus on identifying the policies, practices and other characteristics that help explain the wide variation in their results.

No one that I know of is against all charter schools - certainly not me. As I have said many times, I started my career in a charter, and they certainly have their place.

Chris Christie and Chris Cerf, however, have sold a policy of rapid charter expansion as a way of "saving" kids quickly in urban areas. I repeat: there is NO EVIDENCE that this will work.

I've made this analogy before: the use of research to justify charter expansion reminds me of the global warming debate. We know the primary causes of GW, and we know how to reduce them. Any ambiguity introduced by small-scale studies showing limited effects of certain specific conditions does not change the overall conclusion that warming is occurring, it has serious consequences, and it is primarily due to human activity. It is foolish beyond belief, given the consequences, that we are debating reducing CO2 emissions when the evidence is so vast and the probable outcomes are so dire.

And yet here stands our governor, with the flimsiest of think-tanky policy briefs behind him, prepared to push charters as a major part of his plan to "reform" education.

You cite several studies showing some limited effect of charter schools on student achievement. Yet you yourself say:

"Does this mean that all charter schools are good? Not by any means. CREDO's 2011 study of Pennsylvania, for example, found that students do less well in charter schools (primarily in virtual charters). And there are plenty of similar studies.

The point, rather, is that trying to prove "which one is better" on any kind of generalized basis is a fool's errand. Anyone who claims nationwide inferiority, parity, or superiority for charter schools is grossly oversimplifying what could be an interesting debate about why charter schools in some states or neighborhoods seem to be doing so much better while others are doing the same or worse. The education debate has to move beyond simplistic bromides for us to find out what sorts of state charter laws work, what sorts of charter school behavior are helpful, and the like."

Christie is, in fact, selling just the same simple bromide you show disdain for. His education commissioner has refused to do an analysis of NJ data that takes student characteristics into account on large-scale charter expansion.

I stand by my statement: there is no evidence Christie's policy of pushing charters, merit pay, vouchers, and standardized testing will have any effect on student achievement.

You, as someone who puts so much faith in research, would seem to agree.

Duke said...

Stuart, you seem like a sincere guy. You seem like someone who wants to debate things on merit.

To see you endorse the disgusting tactics of admitted criminal O'Keefe is quite disappointing. Allissa Ploshnick is a teacher who never aspired to fame and thought she was having an intimate conversation. She said some stupid things; I'm sure you and I have said stupid things after a few drinks in private (I have, because I'm an actual fallible human being).

To pretend O'Keefe was pulling back the evil veil of racist, lazy, union-sanctioned teachers by using this woman is stupid beyond belief.

You seem like a smart man, Stuart - act like one.


Stuart Buck said...

Look, it's similar to Mel Gibson being caught making anti-Semitic slurs while drunk. People caught in such situations are often revealing what they really think, as opposed to sanitizing their views by concealing the truth.

Now, unlike Gibson, Ploshnick shouldn't have been punished at all. She didn't say anything that reflected poorly on herself. Indeed, she should have been rewarded as a whistleblower, if anything.

But the unfairness of O'Keefe's tactics doesn't mean that Ploshnick was somehow tricked into saying something that was untrue. The opposite is far more likely the case. If Ploshnick had spoken on the record to a legitimate newspaper, she almost certainly would have uttered nice platitudes about how tenure protects decent teachers from unfair administrators -- but she would have been concealing almost all of the truth about what she has really observed.

I know that you're a teacher, and you have every motive to suggest that tenure doesn't really work that way. So, with all due respect, it's more believable from my point of view to look at what teachers have said when they weren't trying to present a rosy public image for their own benefit.

Stuart Buck said...

"Chris Christie and Chris Cerf, however, have sold a policy of rapid charter expansion as a way of "saving" kids quickly in urban areas. I repeat: there is NO EVIDENCE that this will work."

Well, if that's your standard, then there is no evidence that anything will work. Whatever policy you can name -- early childhood education, poverty relief, class size reduction, etc. -- may have worked in a few small studies (just like charters), but that isn't necessarily proof about what will happen if those policies were rapidly expanded to a large scale.

Duke said...

So now you're justifying the disgusting tactics of O'Keefe, because of some paranoid fantasy of teachers living a secret life of lazy racism protected by tenure?

You think Gibson was speaking "truth" when he was drunk?! You think plying a teacher with alcohol and lying to her about intentions is a way of getting at the "truth" about tenure?!

You've shown your true colors here today, Stuart.

Stuart Buck said...

I think Gibson was speaking the truth about what his real inner beliefs are. People when caught in unguarded moments tend to be more honest about what they really think. Likewise, Ploshnick by all appearances was being honest about how she has seen tenure work, much as she (or you) would like to deny it later.

And if you bother to read what I said, I mentioned the "unfairness of O'Keefe's tactics," so it hardly makes sense to accuse me of "justifying the disgusting tactics of O'Keefe." What I do say, and what you have no answer to, is that no matter how unfair O'Keefe was, that doesn't make what Ploshnick said an inaccurate representation of her experience.

Stuart Buck said...

If someone did the same to Michelle Rhee, and if she were caught on camera saying to someone she thought was a confidant, "Hey, I don't really believe any of this stuff, but I'm raking in the corporate donations, and it's more money than I could make anywhere else right now," would you be worried only about the unfairness of the videotaping, or would you think that Rhee had finally revealed her true feelings?

Duke said...

First of all, the only way this idiotic analogy makes sense is if you think Gibson was a "whistle-blower" for Catholics in general. I will tell you personally he is not, and if you think he is: screw you. Gibson doesn't speak for me or my family, any more than Ploshnick's words under false pretenses after she's been drinking speaks for all teachers. Only a sophist would claim they did.

Second: the minute you use this disgusting incident to claim you are showing the "truth," you justify O'Keefe's sleaze. Don't think anyone is fooled by your weak-ass disclaimers of how you think this garbage is "unfair." You, like Christie, are happy to use it when it suits your ends. That speaks volumes about you and your character.

Finally: this "last word wins" crap is really getting old. You haven't posted to your own blog since 8/30; the last post before that was 5/3.

Lame. You can continue top troll around me and Bruce Baker, or you can do the hard work of writing about this stuff in coherent posts if it's so important to you.

Again: you've shown your true colors here today, Stuart. You can protest all you want, but you've used O'Keefe's slime to do your dirty work for you. You and he are two sides of the same coin.

Stuart Buck said...

For the record, I posted on my blog once in December, 3 times in Nov., and 5 times in Oct., so I'm not sure you found the right "Stuart Buck" blog.

Anyway, the analogy is not about whistleblowing in general, but just the fact that people can be more truthful in unguarded moments. You don't seem to disagree with that notion, you're just mad at O'Keefe. Fine, be upset at O'Keefe all you want, but can you honestly say that you'd be as upset if someone caught Rhee or a Walton or Bill Gates on tape happily saying something that turned out to be damaging?

Duke said...

Here's the blog you get when you click your name:


Nothing since August.

Dear lord, you must be willingly obtuse to make this analogy:

Would I think it's appropriate to get Rhee - unlike Ploshnick, a public figure by her own choice - drunk, make a pass at her, tape her on a hidden camera, and then use her words to make a point about the "true" agenda of all "reformers"?

No, I would not. Would I use her words in this scenario to make a point about her or others' agenda? No, I wouldn't.

By the way: I don't have to. Rhee and Gates and Walton have said plenty in open forums when they were sober to hang themselves.

Again, Stuart - that you think O'Keefe's sick tactics shed any light on teachers' motivations says quite a bit about you.

You seem to think the one who gets the last word here is the winner. Go ahead and take it. Want to try to dig yourself out one more time? Be my guest.

For myself, I'm done with you. Thanks to this last exchange, I have a pretty good idea now of what you stand for. I labored under the delusion that you were sincere in your arguments - silly me. Thank you for helping me to disabuse myself of that notion.

Stuart Buck said...

1. It would be nice if you'd stick to substance, rather than stooping to personal insults and uninformed psychoanalysis about my supposed motives.

2. If you click on my name, you'll see two links: one for my personal website (exclusively devoted to my Yale book issued in 2010 . . . no news about that recently), and one for my blog, underneath the large heading "My blogs." Alternatively, you can use Google, and you'll find my main blog easily enough.

3. For the record, here's where you manage to misread me yet again: "that you think O'Keefe's sick tactics shed any light on teachers' motivations says quite a bit about you."

I didn't say "teachers' motivations." I said that Ploshnick's unguarded words obviously reveal what she has personally experienced. It might not be what you've experienced, but I didn't say that Ploshnick was speaking for all teachers.

For example, she claimed to have seen a teacher get demoted (not fired) for calling a student the n-word. Either that was true, or it was untrue. But why would it have been untrue -- what motive would she have to make up such a story? And if it was true, then Ploshnick was telling the truth about something that happened with public dollars, and the public arguably has a right to know about it, no matter how offensive you find it that O'Keefe secretly videotaped a teacher.

Try to keep two things separate in your mind: O'Keefe's tactics, and the fact that a n-word-using teacher stayed employed. You want to keep the subject on the former, as if O'Keefe's badness somehow completely excuses the n-word-using teacher.

Myself, I'm against teachers using the n-word aimed at students. So yes, THAT is my true motive there.

Farah said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stuart Buck said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Duke said...

I think I've removed two comment in the nearly two years of this blog. Your last one had to go Stuart.

I don't have to put up with you or anyone else calling me a racist on my own blog.

Stuart Buck said...

I'm not calling you a racist. I'm sure that you wouldn't actually want teachers calling anyone the n-word. All I'm saying is that when Ploshnick says that a teacher called someone the n-word and barely got punished for it (and she herself doesn't claim that she was misquote or exaggerating), you haven't said one word condemning that teacher, whereas you've said lots of things condemning O'Keefe. If you want to condemn that teacher in terms as vociferous as you've used about O'Keefe (or me, for that matter), please do so; I don't think it worth engaging with someone whose priorities are such that O'Keefe is worse than an n-word-using teacher.

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