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 25, 2016

Once Again, @GovChristie Treats Education Policy Like a Joke

I have a piece over at NJ Spotlight about Chris Christie's insane school funding proposal. If there is an upside to this madness, it's that we just might finally have a serious discussion about how education funding really works in this state. Obviously, I'm going to have a lot more to say about this, so stand by.

But before I do, I want to remind everyone of one immutable truth: Chris Christie has never been serious abut education policy. If you doubt me, just look at the very first piece of propaganda he's put out in support of his "Fairness Formula."

Christie went to the home of a South Plainfield family and literally sat at their kitchen table and pitched his scheme. Toward the end, Christie spoke to the family's 10-year-old son:

Governor Christie:  Aiden how you doing man? You’ve been hanging in there during all this, is it all right? What are you doing over the summer? 
Aiden Carlisle: Summer baseball and summer soccer. 
Governor Christie: Great. Have fun this summer. You’ve earned it. You worked hard in school, earn your summer. It’s good. Enjoy it. [emphasis mine]
Really? Young Aiden here has "earned" his summer off? I seem to remember almost exactly three years ago that Chris Christie had some very different ideas about summer and school:
The governor told a friendly Bergenfield crowd Tuesday that Garden State students are in need of more hours in the classroom and longer school years in order to stay competitive. Christie blamed special interests with blocking those changes for purely their own personal interests.
They don’t want a longer school year, they like having the summer off,” said Christie, referring to the adults – not the students – who he accuses of blocking the reforms.
Christie argued longer school days and years are needed to ensure students are educated. [emphasis mine]
Why wasn't the governor telling young Aiden here that he wants him back in the classroom instead of playing baseball and soccer? Why wan't he trying to make the case to Aiden's parents that their son needs to spend his summer in the classroom to "stay competitive"?

The answer, of course, is that Chris Christie was never serious about lengthening the school year -- it was all a diversion from Bridgegate**. Christie never had a plan to pay for a longer year, never had a plan to upgrade all schools so they all had air-conditioning, and never even asked whether this was something New Jersey families actually wanted. It was all a cheap political ploy.

One more thing:
Paul Carlisle: That’s the deal. What’s the deal? Tell him what the deal is. 
Aiden Carlisle: School first and then sports. 
Governor Christie: Excellent. Well I’ll tell you, you can do it all the way through. My oldest son just graduated from college and he was baseball player in college, he played for Princeton and they just won the IVY League championship and went to the NCAA tournament. But he got his good grades and he graduated on time. So, you can play sports and do school but I had the same deal with him. School first, sports second. Grades aren’t good you can say adios to the coach. And it worked. He went all the way to college, he played baseball in college and it was a great time for him and it made his college even better. He made lots of great friends and had lots of great experiences. So sports is great and if you do that while getting good grades you’ll do really well. So good for you. Keep it up buddy. That’s really great. Thanks for letting me come to your house. [emphasis mine]
Yes, Christie's son did play high school baseball -- at a private school that currently charges $36,900 in tuition, far in excess of what any NJ public school spends per pupil (and tuition doesn't even cover the full expenses of the school). A school so big and beautiful...

... you could literally land a taxpayer-funded helicopter on its fields.*

Apparently, it's OK to spend that kind of scratch on school when you're Chris Christie's kid; not so much if you're a student in a school that serves many children in economic disadvantage. But don't point out this screaming hypocrisy to Christie:

Like I said: if Christie's insane "Fairness Formula" leads to a meaningful conversation about school funding in New Jersey, that's great. But let's not pretend for one minute that Christie has put forward a serious policy: he's never been serious about education. He is nothing more than a political opportunist, cynically chucking out incoherent and destructive policies to his political base like so much rancid red meat.

More to come...

Stop pointing out my incoherence and hypocrisy!
Shut up! Just shut up!

ADDING: Speaking of Chris Christie and school sports, this, from 2010, is worth pulling out of the memory hole:
Does it worry you that, as a result of your budget cuts, some districts are cutting back on sports or having athletes pay to join high school teams? 
It does. I don't think it should have to. We're looking at this all backwards. Teachers and administrators should be looking at what they're paid and what their raises are, and if they're really worried about the kids, sports are an integral part of a kid's education. When I see some people being restricted in any way from participating in that, it does concern me, because I was very involved in it as a kid at public schools here. I also know it's a false choice. They can make other choices and they refuse to.
Christie's point is quite clear here: greedy, overpaid teachers were keeping kids from playing sports.  Of course, the idea of overpaid teachers is a myth, and Christie had just refused to renew the millionaire's tax. But, hey, why pass up a chance at getting a few more cheap shots in at teachers, amiright?

* Just a reminder of why Christie had to take an expensive helicopter flight to go see his kid play baseball:
Like Daniels, Christie never offered proof. Like Daniels, Christie blew everything out of proportion. And, like Daniels, Christie has abused his office for personal uses. My personal favorite was when he got the state police to fly him in a helicopter to his son's private school to watch him play a baseball game, then ducked out early to meet with GOP bigwigs from Iowa.
Tell those damn teachers to get back to work!

That particular incident got a good bit of play in the press. What barely got mentioned, however, was that Christie also used those same helicopter privileges to fly to a state-funded "town hall" meeting in Nutley, where he proceeded to say New Jersey's teachers were "lying" to their students.

No, I am not making that up.

2018 can't come fast enough.

** To be clear: Christie made noise about extending the school day and year before Bridgegate. But he brought it up again, after having stopped talking about the idea for a while, in his 2014 State of the State address in a clear attempt to divert attention from the scandal.

1 comment:

Tamar Wyschogrod said...

I agree with everything you say here, including pointing out Christie's hypocrisy in bringing up his son's Delbarton experience, but just to set the record straight: While Delbarton's grounds are certainly big enough to land a helicopter -- a FLEET of helicopters, even -- the infamous incident where Christie arrived at his kid's baseball game in a State Police helicopter didn't take place at Delbarton. It was an away game at St. Joseph Regional High School in Montvale. That said, not only is Delbarton tuition higher than per-student spending in public schools, but many expensive private schools, as a gimmick to encourage donation, actually observe a "tuition runs out" day (usually in April, I think), beyond which the school's annual expenses exceed the tuition take. I know they've done this at Pingry and Lawrenceville; not sure about Delbarton, but no doubt it's just as true there.