Governor Christie is laden with unmitigated gall. The Connors School was scheduled to be refurbished in 2010, with the Demarest Alternative School students already having been re-assigned to the High School and other programs being shifted to make room for the Connors kids. This project, for which money had been appropriated, was canceled by Christie as soon as he took office. He also gutted state aid to local school districts, picked a fight with the teachers’ unions, insulted the entire public school system with his accusations of malfeasance, and lied (yes, lied) about the real cause for New Jersey’s losing a sizable grant from President Obama’s Race to the Top. He blamed Bret Schundler for the grant’s rejection when in reality it was his own refusal to give in to the teachers’ unions’ proposals on one minor point that resulted in the turndown.
And now, believe it or not, our bully of a Governor is trying to take credit for providing money for the Connors school reconstruction and the increase in state school aid. New Jersey students have scored at or near the top in nationwide test scores for the past several years, yet the governor, upon taking office, chose to condemn all New Jersey public schools. Yes, our urban schools have serious problems, but urban schools throughout the country do. Seems there are not enough Geoffrey Canadas to go around. That being the case, address the problem schools without condemning the whole system. Consider also that a major part of that problem derives from parents ensuring that they and their children know all about the rights they have and forgetting about the responsibility part. But that’s a discussion for another letter.
Christie is of the same mind as the other Republican governors who have decided to destroy the public unions, even if the public schools come crashing down with them. Think about it this way: unions bargain, either with school board or state legislature committees, whose duty is to bargain back. No union, public or private, can gain anything unless the opposition bargaining committee cedes the point. All a union is guaranteed is a seat at the table on an equal basis, whether it is teachers, firemen, police, city hall or state workers. Not an advantage, not an automatic acceptance of their demands. Why, then, do we not hold the school board and legislative bargaining committees responsible for what they give away? Why are they not the bad guys? We know why they give in: they’re fearful of being voted out of office. Staying in office is more important, apparently, than doing the job they were elected to do in protecting the public treasury.
The problem is not the unions as such. It is legislators and board members who care more about winning reelection than protecting the public interest. Courage is in short supply.
R. Y. Bice