Rumblings in the Garden State
Chris Christie, the governor of my home state of New Jersey, is making a name for himself.
How does a chief executive do that? By standing up to the special interests and public sector unions which have held the state in a financial strangle-hold for years.
Specifically, Gov. Christie isn’t making any friends at the NJEA, the belligerent state teachers union:
All around the state, school districts are planning painful, unprecedented amputations of staff and programs. Local officials are cursing Gov. Chris Christie’s proposed cuts in state aid, but they should be pointing fingers at themselves, too.
When they should have been holding the line on salaries for the past several years, many boards of education instead hugged teachers at the bargaining table and slipped tens of millions of dollars into their pockets with a wink. Now, we’re paying a price.
This week, the governor called for a one-year pay freeze for teachers, and the New Jersey School Boards Association immediately announced its support.
The Star-Ledger has called for a pay freeze for teachers and all public employees to help drowning taxpayers catch their breath.
But the teachers union doesn’t believe its members should share the pain.
When asked why not, the New Jersey Education Association’s defiant president Barbara Keshishian told a Star-Ledger editorial board recently, “Because we have negotiated contracts.”
If the NJEA has its way, teachers will watch friends and colleagues get laid off, class sizes increased and extracurricular programs eliminated — rather than reopen sacrosanct contracts and accept a pay freeze. Remember, these are the same teachers who chanted, “Think of the kids!” during their protest of the governor’s proposed funding cuts. Local union chapters should think of the kids (and the suffering taxpayers), defy their militant state leadership and agree to a pay freeze. It’s the right thing to do.
A decade of liberal governance by Democrats like John Corzine and Jim McGreevey have left the state on the brink of financial disaster. Governor Christie has made it abundantly clear to Jerseyans that tough choices will have to be made to correct our fiscal situation.
In order to do this, concessions need to be made by public workers and their unions, to alleviate the pressure on what is one of the highest middle class tax rates in the country.
But politically, conservatives across the country should learn from what Gov. Christie is doing here. He’s not afraid to call out the unions and take them to the mat. He makes it clear that the citizens and the administration have nothing against teachers. Nothing against students. It’s about the unions and their radical allegiance to their union bosses instead of educating children. Christie isn’t afraid to make this distinction. For too long the radical left has been allowed to use students and teachers as human shields against necessary fiscal action that hurt their pocket books. Christie is calling them out on it, with success.
The last polls show that Christie has an approval rating of 52%. As he calls out the unions more, his poll numbers increase. It’s not about the teachers–it’s about the unions.
As conservatives try to regain their voice on the national stage, as they attempt to take steps back towards fiscal conservatism, they should look here to New Jersey and see how it can be done.