I've been a teacher and loyal NJEA member for 13 years. But I can't sit idly by when the ugliness of political campaigns interferes with the important work teachers perform all over the state.
It's hard to ignore the campaign for governor that's already well underway. And while I've always supported the efforts of the NJEA to educate its members about political campaigns, I've never been as disappointed as I am now with the NJEA's blatant attempts to smear Chris Christie's positions on education. The NJEA has actually sent teachers across the state a document lying about Chris' positions on issues important to teachers. The NJEA is saying that Chris wants to eliminate teachers' pensions, cut teachers' health benefits, end collective bargaining and cut school spending.
All of these statements are untrue and a complete distortion of Chris' actual positions.
The facts are the facts. Chris will not eliminate pensions and has never said that he will. He has proposed a pension fund plan for new state employees, but not for teachers or law-enforcement. Chris has promised to protect the integrity of the pension fund and make sure all payments are made, so the fund can cover its obligations to retiring teachers. And while Jon Corzine says he's on our side, he's the one who has failed to make pension fund payments and even changed state investment guidelines to allow teachers' pension funds to be invested in risky hedge funds.
Chris has not made proposals to change current health benefits for teachers and public school district employees, nor will he. This is just an outright lie. Nor has Chris ever said he would end collective bargaining. Chris' mother worked in his local school district in Essex County for 24 years, so he knows firsthand and values the important work teachers perform year in, and year out.
The NJEA recently said that Chris plans to cut school spending. Again, this is absolutely untrue. Chris has been incredibly supportive of public education throughout his campaign and has repeatedly made clear that education needs to be our state's first priority. We need to do better for our students in every part of the state and Chris has committed to supporting teachers and school boards to make sure all students receive a quality education.
Conversely, Jon Corzine funded more than $1 billion of our education budget with one-time stimulus funds that will disappear next year. Every school budget and academic, athletic, and extra-curricular program for our kids is at risk because of the Governor's reckless, short-sighted policy. What will happen next year when we do not have those funds? Chris knows we cannot risk our kids' education by funding vital education programs with funds that will disappear after one year.
And while our kids' education is first-class in nearly all parts of the state, another equally important truth is that in too many districts, entire generations of children aren't learning the basic skills in math, reading, writing and science. Especially where our schools are failing - particularly in our urban school districts - Chris supports new, innovative approaches because we owe it to our kids to protect them, not the status quo.
I understand that the NJEA is supporting Jon Corzine, and they have every right to. What we cannot allow the NJEA to do is to lie and deceive about the positions of other candidates in the race. It's not what we teachers are all about, and we deserve better.
NJEA Member, Monmouth County
Paid for by Chris Christie for Governor, Inc., Ron Gravino, Treasurer.