Jump to content

NJ Governer Chris Christie vs. NJ Teachers


Recommended Posts

Gov. Chris Christie accuses N.J. teachers' union of 'using students like drug mules' in school elections

By Claire Heininger/Statehouse Bureau

April 19, 2010, 4:10PM


njea-school-elections-chris-christie.JPGEd Murray/The Star-LedgerProtestors march during a NJEA protest against Gov. Chris Christie's budget cuts in Newark on Saturday.


TRENTON -- A day ahead of school budget elections statewide, Gov. Chris Christie today escalated his war of words with the state teachers' union, accusing union representatives of "using the students like drug mules" to carry information about whether their parents planned to vote.


Christie cited what he called a "mandatory" homework assignment instructing children in the Monroe Township School District to interview their parents about whether and why they would vote on Tuesday.




"These are the typical kind of scare tactics that they involve themselves in," Christie said about the 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association, which has been critical of his proposed $820 million cut in school aid. "Scaring students in the classroom, scaring parents with the notes home in the bookbags, and the mandatory 'Project Democracy Homework' asking your parents about what they're going to do in the school board election, and reporting back to your teachers union representatives, using the students like drug mules to carry information back to the classroom, is reprehensible."


Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the NJEA, said a third-grade teacher in Monroe distributed the homework as part of a civics lesson on voter participation, and it had nothing to do with how parents would vote.


"It's just astounding that a governor who just spent a week telling people how to vote would be upset at a teacher for just wondering if people are going to vote," Wollmer said.


Christie has urged voters to reject budgets in districts where teachers have not agreed to "shared sacrifice" by taking a one-year wage freeze and contributing at least 1.5 percent of their salaries toward their health benefits. As of Friday, 145 of the state's nearly 600 districts had implemented a pay freeze or cut of some sort, but only 20 of those involved teachers, Christie's office said today.

County school election charts:



Kenneth Hamilton, superintendent of the 5,600-student Monroe Township School District in Middlesex County, said the district's Project Democracy has been sanctioned by election officials, "because we wanted to make sure we weren't accused of electioneering." The project, in its first year, encourages students to come up with and vote on questions like where to hold the high school prom or how to decorate hall lockers, he said. He said he was not familiar with the specific assignment on the school budget.


"This was actually underway before our governor has been engaged in the politics of public education," Hamilton said. "It really was not done in response to his emphasis on public schools."


Hamilton, who said he "would take exception" to the "drug mules" terminology, said he hopes children talk to their parents about the school budget. "But I would certainly not want that to be initiated by teachers," he said.


The school district -- which lost $4.6 million in state aid, 95 percent of its total -- has prepared a budget including 22 staff layoffs, he said. It includes scaling back some programs and increasing the average property tax levy from $300 to $325 on the average home assessed at $175,000, he said. The administration has agreed to a partial pay freeze, while the teachers union is considering one, which could help offset the tax increase, Hamilton said.


Christie also said some teachers "have decided that even our families are not out of bounds." He said his "nieces and nephews who go to public school have been told by their teachers that the governor, your uncle, is an awful person." Christie's four children go to private school.


"This is the stuff that's going on in classrooms across New Jersey, at the urging and coordination of the bullies across the street," Christie said. "This conduct is just unacceptable. It's beyond the pale, and they are completely out of touch."


Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno said her children had also been approached in school but declined to give any specifics.


Wollmer said Christie is "throwing a lot of accusations around right now" to distract from the pain his budget will impose on local schools.

School and union officials say a freeze is not enough to erase the state aid cuts, which represent up to 5 percent of a district's budget.


"The governor is telling people that if they can just get a freeze out of their teachers, we won't have any layoffs. That is not true," Wollmer said. "That's what's on the ballot tomorrow, is how deeply voters want to let those cuts run in their communities. No salary freeze is going to ameloriate those cuts. Not even close."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...