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Christie vamps up education overhaul rhetoric ahead of deadline

hayneMichael080311_optBY MICHAEL HAYNE
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
COMMENTARY

Chris Christie recently appeared at Notre Dame’s Eck Hall of Law where he used the speaking engagement to take some shots at the NJEA amid the legisltaive deadline to follow through on his education overhaul plans.

Not missing any opportunity to slam his NJEA foes in a public forum, Christie said the teachers’ union has a “$130 million political slush fund” to thwart his plans and uses it “to help their friends and punish their enemies.”

Christie has enjoyed a boost in popularity, partially due to his response to last summer’s Hurricane Irene. But despite Christie’s nascent popularity in the polls, he took a major "thumping" in the midterms when his ambitions of making New Jersey completely Republican fell short. After being badly bruised by the gargantuan governor for nearly two years, the Democrats fought back in the midterms and gained one seat in the state Legislature. This doesn’t majorly alter the balance-of-power in Trenton, but Christie may have to temper some of his attacks.

He wants the Democratic-led Legislature to act before the session ends in January on bills to overhaul schools. Christie’s education reform includes adding more charter schools, revised tenure rules, and more teacher accountability for what he believes are 100,00 students “trapped” in failing schools. He even used his own personal narrative to drive his message home to a mostly partisan crowd.

“There is nothing more important in my public life than winning this,” Christie told a Law School crowd in Notre Dame, Indiana. “If I win this, 10 years from now there will be another kid from Newark standing here who graduated from the public schools in Newark and became governor of the state of New Jersey. He or she will be here because we did our moral duty.”

Naturally, Democrats took issue to some of Christie’s comments and offered their rebuttal.

“The governor’s input is welcome, but his education agenda has so far been tainted by poisonous rhetoric and politics and been a failure for children and property taxpayers, so we’ll continue working on our own education reforms,” said Tom Hester, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver. “The governor will get the chance to decide whether to stand with Democrats to reform education or play politics” by blocking it.

Christie’s forceful anti-public school rhetoric has made him a superstar among Republicans and “one of his guys” to the billionaire David Koch, all of which made him a last minute desperation among Republicans wishing he would toss his nacho hat into the ring and run for president.

Democrats have until Jan. 9 to decide on the proposals. According to a Spokesman for Senate President Stephen Sweeney, any bills not passed by then would need to be reintroduced in the term that begins the next day, restarting the process. This might explain why Christie is vamping up the rhetoric.

Michael Hayne is a comedian/VO artist/Columnist extraordinaire, who co-wrote an award-nominated comedy, wrote for NY Times Laugh Lines, guest-blogged for Joe Biden, and writes a column for MSNBC.com affiliated Cagle. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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