New Jersey Republican Gov. Chris Christie had harsh words for the state’s largest teacher’s union on Wednesday.
In an interview Wednesday night, the governor told ABC’s World News host Diane Sawyer that New Jersey teachers were wonderful public servants but that the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) was a “group of political thugs.”
“Governor Christie’s name-calling is a tired attempt to draw attention away from the fact that he chose to cut taxes for millionaires, rather than fund the state’s public schools,” NJEA President Barbara Keshishian responded in a statement.
Christie blamed the union for the 10,000 teachers and school staff who he laid off, claiming they should have accepted a salary freeze he proposed.
“They should have taken the salary freeze,” he said. “They didn’t and now, you know, we had to lay teachers off.”
Christie also said he plans to reform teachers’ tenure program to make it easier to remove teachers from tenure if they’re found to be ineffective. The governor has already cut pension benefits for teachers and proposed they pay for more of their health care.
“Once again, Christie is resorting to name-calling because he’s ducking responsibility for his own misguided priorities,” Keshishian said. “His cuts to education were so deep – and so harmful to the futures of New Jersey’s students – that a state judge found they failed to meet the requirements of the state constitution. The state Supreme Court is now poised to rule on their constitutionality.”
Christie told Sawyer he didn’t think the Supreme Court should be able to rule on the issue.
“It seems to me under the constitution that that’s what you elect a governor and a legislature for,” he said. “But we’ll see what happens.”
[Photo credit: Walter Burns]