Gov. Chris Christie Calls NJ Teachers Union ‘Fat, Rich And Entitled’

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that “embers of revolution” in public education need to be stoked as he pushed his reforms and continued attacks on New Jersey’s largest teachers union for allegedly blocking progress.

Christie, who’s won national attention
for his willingness to take on public employee unions, spoke at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education before taking questions from students and educators.

The Republican governor referred to the region’s history as the birthplace of the American revolution, then spoke of a brewing nationwide revolution in public K-12 education.

“Those embers of revolution … need to be stoked and in some respects need to have gasoline thrown on them,” he said. “We are losing generations of children and we are losing them as we speak.”

Christie spoke about various obstacles to reform and cited the New Jersey Education Association, which he called a “political thuggery operation” and said was “fat, rich and entitled.”

Earlier this month, Christie referred to the leadership as “bullies and thugs” during a speech in New York.

Asked by a student Friday if he felt his combative tone was preventing progress on his reforms, Christie said he struggled with that question more than people realize, but it wasn’t time to change his approach.

“I am prepared to ratchet down the rhetoric if I could get any indication that there’s any interest in changing the failed system,” he said.

“I have to first awaken the public to the fact that the house is on fire,” Christie later added.

NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer expressed doubt Christie would ever change his approach.

“His tone has been consistently hostile for 16 months,” he said. “It’s the only tone he knows.”

He said it’s “malarkey” that the union is standing in the way of reform, then pointed to recent cuts in staffs, budgets, program and user fees under Christie. “And he’s the champion of public schools?” he said.

“We’re willing to meet,” Wollmer said. “He should be meeting with us rather than insulting us.”

Christie wants to end lifetime teacher tenure, tie educators’ raises to student performance and speed the process for getting rid of bad teachers. The union accuses Christie of trying to force out higher-paid, experienced teachers and say he and his staff just don’t understand how a school works.

The union does agree with Christie’s call to reform the process for getting rid of bad teachers.

Christie’s trip north is his second out-of-state trip this month to speak in a prestigious setting. He was in New York earlier to give a speech sponsored by the Brookings Institute.

In his remarks, Christie said his state has long been in thrall of a failed educational theory that spending more money on education improve performance.

“Money is not the answer to the problem,” he said. “New Jersey is the laboratory that proves the failure of that experiment.”

He pointed to the city of Newark, where he said more than $24,000 is spent per pupil annually, but the graduation rate is 29 percent. He said 90 percent of students who do go on to college need remedial classes to get up to speed, then referred to a Newark high school diploma as “a meaningless document.”

Christie said the educational system must be transformed to demand accountability and excellence, instead of perpetuating a failed status quo that doesn’t benefit students. But he said bringing that kind of change in the United States will be tougher than dealing with the country’s other threats, such as terrorism, foreign unrest and a declining industrial base.

“In my view, this is the biggest fight we can have,” he said.

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Jim Smith

    I believe Chris Christie is alienating many voters with his combative tone.

  • HooDatIS?


  • Robert Senn

    the other day we saw general washington rowing back to pa yelling that his taxes were to high and the teachers union are stealing it all give the state back to the brits

  • Tom McNamara

    Unions = Socialism

    • Purnell

      Unions=defense against the tyranny of the wealthy

  • buy gold

    .LaHood in a statement said Governor Christie and I had a good discussion this afternoon during which I presented a number of options for continuing the ARC tunnel project. .Christie on Thursday said he was canceling the tunnel known as Access to the Regions Core ARC because estimates had the project going anywhere from 2.3 billion to 5.3 million over budget.. . The fact that the ARC project is not financially viable and is expected to dramatically exceed its current budget remains unchanged the governor said in a statement today.

  • nathan

    Well at least he didn’t drop the F-Bomb repeatedly like his pal Donald.

  • mcc

    The irony in Christie’s rhetoric never ceases to amaze me.

    • Purnell

      you mean the “F” word – (FAT)

  • Tom

    Christie is right on. I wish we had more politicians willing to stand up to the NJEA. 3/4 of this year’s budget increase in my town goes directly to teacher raises. Thats not going to my kids, its just filling the teacher’s pockets in a lousy economy while those of us in the public sector sacrifice to keep our companies afloat.
    When everyone is doing good, the teachers can share in the spoils, but when money is tight, the sacrifice needs to be shared.

    • princeton1991

      I think you meant private sector, not public. This tells me that this is more an emotional than rational outburst?

      • Purnell

        I think mixing up public and private means that he is speaking from something he’s read – or heard on the radio rather than prom personal experience.

  • dave

    the issue is more directly related to the fact that the Educators can no longer disciline kids the Class room has become a Daycare Center and parents are not held resonsible
    The teachers Union is not the reason the schools are failing our kids, the Goverment is DIRECTLY responsible for all the short commings

    • M.A.D

      Its a daycare for “Educators” because the parents need to work longer hours in order to pay them. GET RID OF UNIONS!!

      • man612

        Looks like you are in a dead end job. Jealous of highly educated teachers.
        Go to college and get a degree.

    • jan

      He is clearly Putting up!!! Which part don’t you get? He is also absolutely dead on. The same goes for the NY teachers union!

  • Howie Sprague

    “fat, rich and entitled.” Hmmm … Sounds like Christie was looking in the mirror!!!

    • Joe S

      Howie, bravo, very well said.

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