Governor Christie Q&A with Montclair High School Students

[youtube] On Tuesday, Governor Christie visited Montclair High School and participated in a lively Q&A session with students during


On Tuesday, Governor Christie visited Montclair High School and participated in a lively Q&A session with students during their Advanced Placement Government and Politics class. During the visit, the students voiced their concerns about the Governor’s budget and had the opportunity to have some of their questions answered. Governor Christie stressed to the students that the budget cuts are not ideal, however he has a constitutional obligation to do what is necessary to balance the budget.

Student Q&A Transcript:

STUDENT: …parents who can afford it are going to gravitate towards private institutions. Do you think that this will increase the achievement gap between the wealthy who can afford these private institutions and the not so wealthy, who cannot?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: No, I don’t. First of all I disagree with your premise – that a one year cut in funding to public schools is going to make parents rush to send their kids to private school. I went to public school. I went to Livingston High School. My parents who were middle class, if they had a one year cut in funding where teachers got laid off, they wouldn’t be happy about it, but they wouldn’t say – okay I’m sending you to private school. And I suspect that for most of you here, whether your parents are doing very well, or not so well, or even for kids in other school districts. You’re not going to see that happen off of one year. And remember this too; this wasn’t my choice at the end of the day. I take responsibility because I’m the Governor and I have to make the decisions. But understand why this happened. Last year we got a billion dollars – a billion, fifty-seven million in federal funding from the president. One shot. He said not recurring. You can spend it for this one year because the economy is so tough. We knew it wasn’t coming back and he said spend it in two years; don’t spend it all in one year so that you don’t have a situation like we have now where our funding drops off, huge. So this year I walk into a hole of a billion, fifty-seven million – so that actually the state portion of aid to k-12 education is up $230 million this year because the total cut is $820 million.

STUDENT: There’s lots of reasons why we’re in debt and I think debt’s a terrible thing but I think that education is one of the only things that is worth going more into debt.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: We’re not allowed to go into debt, you understand that, right? I have a constitutional obligation to balance the budget. I don’t have the opportunity to do what President Obama is doing or what President Bush did – which is to run deficits. I don’t have the ability to do that. And I agree with you, if I had the ability to run deficits even in the short term, but I don’t have that ability to do it. Every year the Governor has a constitutional obligation to file a balanced budget. So this is not about debt versus something else – and by the way the reason what happened year after year is because there’s no one in the leadership government, either in the executive branch with me or the legislative branch who are saying we think this is the direction we should go. Everything you’ve heard is, we don’t want to do this but I have to file a balanced budget and I don’t have any choice. And so the question is do you continue to do one shot gimmicks that will just put off this day like the one billion did – or do you say, okay we have to suck it up, we have to take out medicine and then once we do and the economy improves we’ll have more money.

STUDENT: While I understand that the budget is mandated by law, it’s unclear why you can’t repeal or at least acknowledge that law. Why can you cut our budget and still determine what programs are mandatory. And I do understand that you aren’t directly cutting foreign language but the position that our town has been put in and our neighboring towns like you’ve mentioned – West Essex and Glen Ridge – that Molly spoke of before, has put our administrators in this position that is so much less than ideal and has forced international magnet schools to potentially consider getting rid of languages as fundamental as Spanish. So to me that’s disturbing because I went to that international magnet school and I don’t understand how children that were in my position ten years ago could leave Montclair with the same experience that I’m leaving with, that I’m going off to college with.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: The situation is not ideal. Let’s start off with me agreeing with that portion of your premise. The situation is not ideal so that’s the first thing. Second thing, yes there are certain state mandates that we are reviewing right now that mandate certain programs – not just phys ed, but all kinds of things that your administration and your teachers have to comply with that cost them time and money that in my view, and the view of the Commissioner – Schundler, don’t make a lot of sense. And so beginning on April 19th the Lieutenant Governor is going to come out with a report that begins to look at those regulations of business and mandates on what the school districts that cost you guys money and may be antiquated in their view given what you’re talking about.

STUDENT: I just don’t understand why our teachers have to sacrifice when their salaries are already so low and I don’t understand – what about state prison inmate accounts? Why can’t they be frozen when the state commission investigation reports that gangs have been using their accounts to buy drugs, cell phones and weapons? And I don’t understand why teachers, of all people have to sacrifice so much when I can email them for school help 24-7, when they stay after school hours with me and help me get ready, when they are my heroes? I admire them, I respect them and through them they’ve inspired me to get internships that have really advanced my resume and really helped me to get into college. And why do they have to put so much up for the state?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: First of all, not many – most of they are, they’re choosing not to. Secondly, everyone is sacrificing. The tax payers are sacrificing by having to pay increased taxes. My budget cuts the budget in every department of government. For the first time in recent history, every department of government is getting a cut. Anywhere from a 2% cut all the way up to a 35% cut. So I want you to understand that teachers are not the only people who are being asked to sacrifice here. Everybody’s being asked to sacrifice here. The folks in the executive branch of government who are not part of the union have not had a pay raise, any pay raise – since 2006. And so everyone is making sacrifices. Those folks are making huge sacrifices because you know, their bills are going up every year, their property taxes are going up and yet, they’re having to make do with less all the time. And like I said in response to her questions, this is not an optimal situation. And I understand your frustration. And I have the same feeling about the teachers who taught me at Livingston High School that you have about your teachers here at Montclair. I wouldn’t be standing here but for the fact that a number of those teachers made a huge impact on my life. And were able to make a difference and make me a better person, a better student and ultimately gave me the chance to do things like this.

STUDENT: If school or district boards of education and superintendents refuse to say that budgets that they approve provide for this thorough and efficient system, if they say that they cannot do that, without the state funding, what does that mean for the state budget?

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: What that means is that we would all wind up in court and a group of judges would decide, as they have many times over the years. We would see what would happen. If you have two constitutional issues in conflict with each other, like the constitutional obligation to balance the budget versus the constitutional obligation to provide a thorough and efficient education, then those two constitutional precepts will have to be decided by a court, most likely the supreme court of the state, and that’s the way we resolve disputes.

GOVERNOR CHRISTIE: We need you, and by we I mean the people and the future of the state. For you to be in a class like this, caring as much as you do about the government and about our civil society, no matter what your particular political persuasion is, whether you are Republican, whether you’re an independent, whether you are a Democrat, we need you in the system. We need you not to give up on public life. There are lots of bad things about public life, lots of nasty things that go on. There are lots of things that are frustrating and make you angry but the only way to change it is to get involved in it. Carping from the sidelines may make you feel good every once in a while but you are still on the sidelines.  When you get into the fight you get dirty and you get messed up and you get hit a few times – or maybe more than a couple of times – but you also have the opportunity to make a difference.  So whatever you do, when you leave here – whether it’s going off to college and getting your degree – come back here, come back here, come back to Montclair, come back to New Jersey. And if there are things that I do as Governor you don’t like, fight against them. If there are things that you want to get accomplished, run for office or support people who believe the things that you believe, if you don’t want to run for office yourself. This is I honestly believe it’s the only way that we’re going to keep our country free and prosperous and growing and keep it special, is for people like you – who at this age already care enough to be in this classroom, and to do the studying that you do, and to come up with the thoughtful questions that you’ve come up with, and to have the conversations that I’m sure you had both before I got here and after I leave – we need you to be part of the solution.

Governor Christie Q&A with Montclair High School Students