In remark rumpus, NJEA accuses Christie of revisionist history and salary inflation

WESTFIELD – Is N.J. Education Association executive director Vince Giordano stepping down per Gov. Chris Christie’s request? “Not likely,” said

WESTFIELD – Is N.J. Education Association executive director Vince Giordano stepping down per Gov. Chris Christie’s request? “Not likely,” said a spokesman, but the teachers’ union said today that Christie’s record on education and his statements about Giordano’s salary need correcting.

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NJEA was responding to a call made earlier in the day by Christie for Giordano to resign immediately in light of remarks Giordano made concerning education options for low-income families.

NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer said the union put “our blood, sweat, and our tears into urban districts” while Christie was “still in law school.”

“This is a purely political effort to discredit us on an issue that we’re very strong on,” he said of Christie’s attack on Giordano following the latter’s remarks on a state political talk show. Regarding low-income students finding options outside of the public school system, Giordano told the host, “Life’s not always fair and I’m sorry about that.”

Wollmer said that the NJEA is dedicated to inner city schools, and that it was Christie who was forced to fully fund urban schools by the state Supreme Court last year. “He had to put $500 million in the budget,” Wollmer said. “He has lawyers in court fighting it.”

“He’s been demonizing us for two-and-a-half years now,” Wollmer said, but, “This is an insult of the highest order.” The NJEA believes Christie’s public onslaught of the union is starting up again, just in time for the Legislature to handle education reform, like charter school and teacher tenure initiatives.

Another issue on which the NJEA says Christie is inaccurate: Giordano’s salary. Christie has been trotting out a $500,000 salary stat in regards to the executive director for years; but even in 2009 from whence the figure came, it was not true, Wollmer said.

The number comes from a form on which Giordano detailed his 2009 salary and benefits.

The information, according to Wollmer, is being recklessly lumped together by Christie to arrive at roughly $481,000, from which he said Christie is rounding up.

Giordano’s true salary number from 2009 is $326,000, a combination of about $300,000 in salary and $26,000 in comp time, according to Wollmer. He believes the governor and his staff included from the form $$26,991 in health and dental benefits and car reimbursement, and $127,000 in formula-based pension liability which is not an actual determination of any benefit, but rather a federally-mandated calculation to determine contributions. “He doesn’t get to spend any of that on groceries,” Wollmer said.

What about Giordano’s salary in 2010 and 2011? Wollmer said he didn’t know exactly what the numbers were, but said Giordano most likely received between a 3 percent and 4 percent raise per year, bringing his total base salary in 2011 to roughly $325,000.

Considering Giordano is heading an organization with 200,000 members, Wollmer said the salary is entirely appropriate. “It’s a job that eats up a lot of your time,” he said.

In remark rumpus, NJEA accuses Christie of revisionist history and salary inflation