BY ASSEMBLYWOMAN CONNIE WAGNER
He’s done it again. On what should be a wonderful day for education in New Jersey with the passage of a federal education aid bill, Bergen County has been sold out once again by Congressman Scott Garrett. Instead of joining colleagues like Senator Frank Lautenberg, he voted against a bill that will save 3,900 teaching jobs in our state. For any other member of Congress, this would be seen as a shocking betrayal of our children and hardworking school teachers. But for Congressman Garrett, it’s just another day at the office.
It should come as no surprise that Congressman Garrett has voted against health care reform, financial regulatory reform and the entire recent Democratic legislative agenda. After all, nearly all Washington Republicans voted in lock-step against these bills. But did you know that Congressman Garrett voted against health care funding for 9/11 first responders? Or that he was one of only 11 members of Congress to vote against aid for Hurricane Katrina victims? He voted against funding the prosecution of hate crimes, against stopping offshore drilling, against mandating child safety locks on handguns and against preventing oil companies from price gauging. And now, he has added another vote to this sordid list – voting against saving 3,900 teaching jobs in New Jersey.
The federal aid contained in this bill could not have come at a better time for New Jersey’s teachers and students. Governor Chris Christie’s budget cut $820 million in education funding, and a recent survey by the New Jersey School Boards Association showed that 80% of schools would have gone into the new year with fewer teachers, before the passage of this bill. Numerous studies have shown that overcrowded classrooms hurt educational development. That’s exactly where we were heading before this crucial vote.
Besides the case for our children, there’s also another important reason to support this bill – unemployment. Congressman Garrett, Governor Christie and the Republican Party want us to think public employees like teachers, police officers and firefighters are not real people with real jobs that provide real service to our community. Of course, we know that is far from the truth. With unemployment still hovering near 10%, needlessly firing 161,000 teachers nationally, 3,900 in New Jersey, would have been a catastrophe. Now, instead of filing for unemployment, these men and women will return to the classroom and educate our children, while continuing to pay their mortgages and purchase goods and services, helping the economy remain on a path toward recovery.
Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner recently referred to teachers and police officers as “special interests” while attacking the education aid bill. Clearly, this distorted view is shared by Congressman Garrett, since he’s so determined to stick it to them that he’s willing to vote against saving 3,900 jobs during a recession. For a politician who labels himself a job-creator, this is nearly incomprehensible.
Despite the best efforts of Congressman Garrett, the education aid bill passed the House and the Senate and is awaiting President Obama’s signature. There are many aspects of economic recovery that are out of the government’s control, but providing funding to keep teachers in the classrooms and off the unemployment rolls certainly is not one of them.
There will be many more important votes in Congress soon, and it can sometimes be hard to determine what your Congressional representative stands for. But with Scott Garrett, it’s easy – he stands for nothing.
Assemblywoman Connie Wagner is from Bergen County.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: This op-ed was posted by ‘editor’, but is a piece written and submitted by Connie Wagner and does not reflect the viewpoint of PolitickerNJ.com.