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Governor Christie on NJEA: I Cannot Express How Disgusted I Am

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Uploaded on Feb 8, 2012

Westfield Town Hall, 02-08-2012
(Transcript Below)


"I want to mention some of the things I saw yesterday from the teacher's union. Vince Giordano I think has given voice to what the teacher's union really thinks when it comes to our children who are less fortunate, and their families and what type of opportunities they should have. Children who live and go to school in failing districts -- which I've been talking about now for three years -- families who can't afford to have a choice when it comes to their children's education, children in Camden and in Newark, in Paterson, Trenton, Jersey City, all over our state. To these children, this is the message from the leader of the teacher's union: 'Life isn't fair.' An outrageous statement. I cannot express how disgusted I am by that statement by the head of the largest teacher's union in our state.

But I also have to tell you I'm not the least bit surprised, because I think it so succinctly captures what their position, their real position is. Not the position they put on their slick thirty second ads when they say 'every child should have a great education.' Well, they mean every child except for the ones in the failing school districts who shouldn't have a choice. It's an immoral position, and it continues to prop up abject failure in districts across our state.

How can that be the answer from the leader of the state's teacher's union, for so many of these children on whether they receive a good education when they know that that's the difference between many of these folks going to college or going to jail. Let's just use one example, OK? And I could use dozens. But let's talk about the Pine Point School in Camden. Their likelihood of being proficient or advanced proficient in language arts is only 17.6% if you go to that school. If you're in any other school the statewide average is 73.7%. For math at that school, the chance of being proficient or advanced proficient is 10.3%. Statewide it's 69.7%.

So because you live in Camden and you attend that school your odds of success both now and in the future plummet. Your likelihood of graduating drops. Your chance of going to college disappears. Your dreams of a better life for your future are gone, because on average a college graduate's going to make a million dollars more over their lifetime than someone who doesn't go to college. And not to mention that the jobs that are being created today are jobs for people who need to be educated in order to take them. What's even more daunting is that high school dropouts are 47% more likely to go to jail than people who graduate from high school.

According to Vince Giordano that falls under the category of 'life isn't fair.' There's 100,000 children—you've heard me say this over and over again—trapped in 200 failing schools across this state. I want their parents to have an opportunity to have choice, by having more charter schools, by improving our public schools through tenure reform and merit pay and ending LIFO. And most importantly on the topic that Mr. Giordano was fighting against on that program, to have the Opportunity Scholarship Act for kids in failing school districts.

His comments though just aren't surprising. Because remember something: the teacher's union doesn't believe that there's an achievement gap in New Jersey. I know this is crazy because we have the second worst achievement gap in America. But let me just remind you what Barbara Keshishian, the president of the NJEA said in December. This is a quote, she said "the so-called achievement gap between white and black students in the state's urban districts is a classic straw man." A classic straw man.

You heard the numbers from that one school in Camden, they're replicated across the state in our failing districts. We live in a state where we rank below only one other state, in the size of the achievement gap between high income and low income students for eighth grade reading. Only Alaska does worse in the achievement gap than New Jersey. And just this month on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge Test, the NJASK, economically disadvantaged students scored 31 points lower than their peers in literacy, and 24 points lower than their peers in math. That is not a straw man. That is an inconvenient truth that the teacher's union cannot live with because to acknowledge it would cut out the underpinnings of the failed system that they are spending and distorting and fighting so desperately to keep in place.

They'd rather pretend that this situation doesn't exist than to actually deal with it and fix it. And this is supposed to be an organization that represents our teachers. I could tell you this: teachers in New Jersey deserve much better than Vince Giordano and Barbara Keshishian. You know as Vince drives out of the palace on State Street every day in his big luxury car with his $500,000 salary, I'm sure life is really fair for him..."

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