FAIR LAWN – Governor Chris Christie visited the north Jersey suburb of Fair Lawn on Wednesday to tout his school funding formula—dubbed the Fairness Formula—to the residents of a town that would stand to get significant property tax relief if the plan were to be enacted. Christie’s formula proposes giving all of New Jersey’s schools a flat rate of $6,599 per student in state funding. Currently, because of a 1985 ruling by the NJ Supreme Court, 31 districts in the state are classified as Abbott districts and receive more funds per pupil from the state.
While Christie’s formula stands to provide property tax cuts in many suburban towns, Democrats in the New Jersey legislature have come out strongly opposed to his proposal, claiming that it would negatively impact the primarily urban Abbott districts and set children in those areas behind. Because of that opposition, Christie targeted state Senator Bob Gordon (D-38), who represents Fair Lawn in the legislature, during his Thursday remarks in the town’s senior center.
“He is a nice guy but he is a timid and frightened guy,” said Christie, claiming that Gordon is fearful of retaliation from the 200,000 member strong New Jersey Education Association NJEA.
According to Christie, because every member of the NJEA is required to pay annual dues of $731, the organization uses funds to enact changes they want.
“It is a $140 million slush fund to help their friends and intimidate their enemies,” Christie said of the NJEA’s dues.
Christie continued by claiming that if Gordon were to stand up to the NJEA and back the Fairness Formula, he would face consequences.
“Bob Gordon will no longer be Senator Bob Gordon, he will be Former Senator Bob Gordon. And, to those guys title means everything,” Christie said. “How could he possibly oppose it?”
According to Christie, since no towns in LD38 are Abbott, Gordon is supposedly resisting helping his own district by supporting need-based school funding.
Gordon issued a statement refuting Christie’s claims about the Fairness Formula.
The statement read: “The Governor’s assertions about his proposal to rewrite the state’s school funding system and the potential impact it would have on school districts in Bergen County and throughout New Jersey are disingenuous and misleading, which is the most ‘diplomatic’ description his plan deserves. The message the Governor delivered in Fair Lawn today was completely unfair to local residents. The truth is, his funding scheme is unrealistic, divisive and, if it were ever enacted, it would be destructive to education in New Jersey.
“His proposal offers a false promise because it will never be enacted, and he knows that. It would violate the basic standards of fairness and equality in education and it is blatantly unconstitutional.”
Gordon’s statement also expressed support for the other school funding plan, put forth by state Senator M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate President Steve Sweeney, a likely gubernatorial candidate in 2017.
“With this plan, 80 percent of the school districts in New Jersey would receive an increase in state aid, as would 73 of the 74 districts in Bergen County and all 15 of those in the 38th Legislative District,” Gordon’s statement read. “This plan will provide full funding for all school systems. It strives for equity, fairness and opportunity. That should be our defining goal.”
Christie also said that, because he is constitutionally barred from running for governor again, he is willing to stand up to the NJEA. He also said he aims to fix the issue by the time his term ends in January 2018.
“When you are a second-term governor who never has to run again, you are liberated,” Christie said.
While Democrats immediately fired back at the governor for his school funding proposal, support from fellow Republicans was palpable at the Fair Lawn event. State Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39), Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi (R-39), Freeholder Maura DeNicola, LD40 assembly candidate Kevin Rooney, Bergen County Republican Chairman Paul DiGaetano and Fair Lawn Mayor John Cosgrove were all present.