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Christie to Propose Longer School Day in State of the State

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will propose extending the public school calendar and lengthening the school day in a speech he hopes will help him rebound from an apparent political payback scheme that threatens to damage his second term and could cut short any ambitions to run for president.

Governor Chris Christie gives the State of the State Address in the Assembly Chambers at the Statehouse in 2013
Governor Chris Christie gives the State of the State Address in the Assembly Chambers at the Statehouse in 2013 (Governor’s Office/Tim Larsen)

According to excerpts of his State of the State address obtained by The Associated Press, Christie, an early front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, will make the case Tuesday that children who spend more time in school graduate better prepared academically. Details of the plan will be left for another day.

Christie, who won re-election by 22 points in a Democrat-leaning state, hopes to regain his footing after being shaken by revelations that key aides orchestrated massive traffic backups by closing lanes near the George Washington Bridge, one of the world’s busiest spans. Four Christie loyalists have been fired or resigned for the apparent political vendetta against a Democratic mayor who wouldn’t endorse Christie.

Christie’s proposal to lengthen school could antagonize an old adversary, the powerful public teachers union, which he has clashed with over pension and tenure changes. An overhaul of public employee retirement benefits by Christie and the Legislature in 2011 was bitterly opposed by the union, which spent millions in anti-Christie ads during his gubernatorial campaigns.

The education plan is the latest from a governor who has sought to retool schooling in grades kindergarten through 12 with mixed success so far.

Christie successfully overhauled century-old teacher tenure rules, essentially eliminating lifetime job protections. But the Democrat-led Legislature has not gone along with his voucher plan, which would allow children in failing schools to attend classes elsewhere, including at private or parochial schools.

Christie also is expected to revive the theme of bipartisanship, which has taken a hit in the scandal. While Christie has sought to package himself as someone willing to reach across the aisle to get things done, in contrast to politicians in Washington, the traffic plot exposed the petty partisan politics being practiced by some of his aides.

Christie is set to be inaugurated for a second term on Jan. 21. The celebration will be on Ellis Island, historically a gateway for immigrants arriving in the United States.

Watch the speech and the Democrat response live starting at 3 p.m. on this website.

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved)

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