An open letter to Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, you target teachers. That’s not a positive note to start your tenure. You forget that the Teachers’ Union makes decisions on its own, such as entering into the political arena and putting $3 million of our dues money to defeat you in the recent gubernatorial political campaign.

I am a teacher and no one asked me about that decision. Mr. Christie you know-or maybe you don’t- that Charter Schools don’t work simply because education is not a business; it’s a vocation, a life long commitment, a mission. You also seem to brush off that the merit pay, one of the initiatives considered by your administration, in poor Democratic districts falls in the hands of traditionally Democratic political bosses and their political machines. Whoever works for them outside the classroom gets the “merit”.

In other cases it is obsequious behavior outside of the classroom that will be rewarded instead of outstanding behavior in the classroom.

Mr. Christie you also seem—or choose to forget— that the poor districts have a disadvantage precisely because they do not have the resources to compete. That’s why they are always struggling to get state money.

Last Friday, January 22, your Education Secretary, Mr. Bret Schundler, saw with his own eyes what Union City Mayor Brian Stack has achieved with state help for our kids, including a high tech high school with all the advantages of modern technology.

Rafael Fajardo, an educational leader in Elizabeth, has built 11 schools in 12 years, giving opportunity and advancing education to thousands of children that otherwise could have never enjoyed the advantages of technology and many other educational opportunities in a poverty stricken district.

Both Stack and Fajardo have been working closely with our teachers’ union. They know how important it is for us teachers to concentrate on our task without having to worry about the highs and lows of New Jersey political currents.

It is not a positive sign to start an administration with political vindictiveness. Most of the teachers that you are already declaring war on are hard workers who leave much of themselves everyday in their classrooms, struggling not only with the discipline, but the socio-economic conditions of their students, who don’t have the same advantages other students have in affluent districts.

Teachers, like cops, are public servants and exemplary members of New Jersey communities: people who pay their taxes, bills, and parking tickets. In poor districts teachers spend an average of $800 a year of their own money on their students.

I invite you, Governor, to sit in one of my classes and teach for a day. You’ll realize that by punishing the teachers’ union you’ll be punishing great young people, who happen to be economically disadvantaged. By punishing our union you punish us for political reasons that to many of us are beyond our control. Are you willing to lower the morale and weaken the commitment of hard-working teachers for your political agenda? I don’t think so.

I suggest you continue to go after the bankers, corrupt politicians and other licensed criminals and outlaws before you take on the teachers of New Jersey. Our Union has represented us well even though we are underpaid and overworked, even though we were not consulted about the $3 million spent against your gubernatorial campaign.

Let us do our work. Political vengeance is beneath you. Our young people are first. Instead of going to war with our union, we count on you for support.

Rafael Martel
Union City, NJ

An open letter to Governor Chris Christie