With only 54 days left until the New Jersey state budget is passed, Gov. Chris Christie suggested education reform as a way to decrease taxes, in a town hall meeting in Freehold.
Hundreds of New Jersey residents gathered at the National Guard Armory for a town hall meeting where Christie discussed his plan to decrease the state’s budget. According to Christie, New Jersey spent $25 billion supporting public schools during the 2009-2010 school year, an average of $17,836 per student.
“That is the most of any state in America, per pupil,” Christie said. “I am a product of public education, but I support good public education. I support public education that makes our children's futures bigger and brighter and stronger, and I will no longer protect a public education system that wastes your money and wastes your children’s future.”
Christie criticized what he characterized as excessive spending for priority school districts.
“Fifteen percent of the total state budget goes to 31 school districts," he said. "I am tired and I think you are tired of paying a king’s ransom for failure, and so we need to reform the tenure system."
Continuing on the topic of tenure reform, Christie emphasized the need to assess job performance throughout a teacher's career.
“We need to reform the tenure system because nobody in this state should be guaranteed a job after three years and one day on the job with no regard to how well they do the job," said Christie. "If you do a great job, we want you to stay in teaching as long as you want. But if you are ineffective, we need to get you away from the front of that classroom and on to something else.”
Christie suggested implementing merit-based salary increases for teachers who are achieving in the classroom. “Like everyone else in America that does well, you should be paid better for achieving,” he said.
Christie also recomended a voucher system so that parents can remove their children from a district that is not working for them.
The New Jersey governor then focused his attention on the teachers' union.
"You need a union as good as you are, and you don't have one," he said in a conversation with a teacher in the audience.
Christie said he is fed up with what he characterized as the union's desire to keep the status quo. "I am no longer going to put up with them telling us what is best for our students," he said.
"The teachers' union would have you believe that somehow, if teachers compete with teachers for merit-pay, that somehow this would ruin comaraderie. I find that hard to believe," said Christie. "Teachers don't become teachers to become rich."