EAST RUTHERFORD – Readying to answer questions after singing a athlete concussion bill at the new Meadowlands Stadium today, Gov. Chris Christie, surrounded by some former NFL players, joked, “Any of my difficult questions I will (defer) to (former N.Y Giants lineman) Bart Oates.”
Then Christie was asked the question of the day: What is your response to the teachers’ union tenure reform proposal?
“When I see it, I think you know that I will give my candid reactions to it,” Christie said, only partially responding to portions of the proposal explained to him by the press.
The mere fact that the teachers’ union, staunch defenders of the status quo, is even proposing reform is remarkable, he said.
“You don’t think we’ve changed the conversation in the state? We changed it,” Christie said triumphantly.
He discussed the conditions under which he’ll allow the biggest teachers’ union in the state to dictate his proposed reforms.
“I’m happy to work with the teachers’ union…I’ve said all along,” Christie claimed, so long as the union leaders “stop denying the fact that we have significant educational challenges in our state.”
Christie has routinely clashed with the union, but one interaction ended worse for the state’s education system than others.
When the state was preparing the federal Race to the Top program application, Christie reportedly told then-education commissioner Bret Schundler to stop working with the labor leaders, forcing the application to be scrapped and a new one prepared at the 11th hour. Critics say the rush to redraw the application ultimately contributed to the loss of $400 million in federal school funding.
Now the NJEA is crow-barring its way into Christie’s proposed teacher tenure reform.
The governor said he’ll listen to the union’s proposal, but has already designated a task force to examine the issue. “They’re working right now,” Christie said. He expects a report from the team of educators by March 1, 2011.
He asked for the NJEA make certain acknowledgments before entering into the reform process.
“First of all, acknowledge that the public education system for many children is broken,” Christie said. Second, honestly admit that reform is needed.
Christie also remarked on his powwow with Democratic leaders yesterday over arbitration reform.
“It think we made some progress, but there’s still work to be done,” Christie said.
Senate and Assembly majority leaders, directors, and staff met with Christie and his advisors, including Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno.
“I thought yesterday was very productive,” Christie said, but, “I will not signed watered down reform…The clock is running out.”