NJEA on Defensive Over Comment [VIDEO]
Gov. Chris Christie called for Vincent Giordano, the leader of the New Jersey's teacher's union to resign Wednesday, after the union chief said "life's not always fair" while discussing how poor families can't afford private schools -- and union opposition to vouchers that could help them do so.
In response to Christie's request, Giordano issued a statement through the NJEA calling for Christie to resign.
- Read Giordano's full statement below
“I have no intention of resigning. If he thinks he’s going to bully me like he bullies everyone else, he doesn’t understand who am, or how deeply I care about the work I do. I have too much important work to do protecting New Jersey’s public schools from the disastrous education policies of this governor. In just two years he has done more damage to education than I have seen in nearly 50 years of service as a teacher and advocate for public schools."
Giordano made the remark in an interview over the weekend on NJTV during a discussion focusing on school vouchers, which would in some cases let students use public money to attend private school.
When pressed on the dilemma faced by parents who can't afford to remove their children from failing schools, Giordano replied: "Life's not always fair and I'm sorry about that."
He went on to say: "We should work more closely with administrators and with this administration and we should provide the best possible education within our public schools. Our public schools are among the best in the nation. There are areas, urban areas in particular, that are challenging and that's where we should be focusing more of our energy and more of our efforts."
The union issued a statement late Tuesday saying Giordano acknowledged his words could have been misinterpreted. Giordano meant to stress that providing vouchers to a select few students is not the way to address the challenges faced by urban schools, the union said.
Christie, a Republican who has clashed repeatedly with the teachers union over his proposed education reforms, called the "life's-not-fair" comment "outrageous" at a town hall meeting in Westfield and called for Giordano to resign.
Democratic lawmakers also expressed outrage at Giordano's comment. Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, a co-sponsor of a bill that would provide grants to children in low-performing districts to attend a public or private school of their choice, said the remark showed "a startling contempt for children and parents of limited means who are forced into failing schools by virtue of their ZIP code."
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Video by Dino Flammia
VINCENT GIORDANO STATEMENT ON CHRISTIE'S CALL FOR HIS RESIGNATION
“Governor Christie has stooped to a new low, even by his own standards. In his personal attack on me, NJEA president Barbara Keshishian and the New Jersey Education Association, he has demonstrated that there is no limit to his willingness to twist, distort and misrepresent the facts in a situation to satisfy his voracious appetite for political vengeance.
“I have no intention of resigning. If he thinks he’s going to bully me like he bullies everyone else, he doesn’t understand who am, or how deeply I care about the work I do. I have too much important work to do protecting New Jersey’s public schools from the disastrous education policies of this governor. In just two years he has done more damage to education than I have seen in nearly 50 years of service as a teacher and advocate for public schools.
“I serve on the Board of Directors of the Education Law Center, which has fought a 35-year battle to ensure educational opportunities for students in urban schools. Despite Gov. Christie’s efforts to renege on the promise of a thorough and efficient education for every child, the ELC has led the fight to hold him and his administration accountable.
“When this governor slashed funding for urban schools again last year, ELC sued on behalf of children in those districts. The New Jersey Supreme Court examined the facts and ruled his budget unconstitutional. It ordered him to provide over $500 million to students in urban districts to ensure that New Jersey’s vision for equal educational opportunity remains alive.
“The Supreme Court has never had to order me or NJEA to do the right thing by the students in our urban schools. We’ve been fighting for students in urban schools since governor Christie was a public school student himself. I helped start and serve on the Board of Directors of the New Jersey Center for Teaching and Learning which is bringing innovative, life changing programs to students in districts across New Jersey, including Newark, Jersey City and Paterson. NJEA has contributed $4 million to this effort over the last several years.
“While Gov. Christie has prioritized tax breaks for millionaires over funding for children, NJEA has continued to advocate for every child in New Jersey. And we do more than talk, we produce results. Long before Gov. Christie blew into Camden to claim credit for the Urban Hope Act, NJEA was working with the sponsors of that bill to ensure that the legislation would succeed and children would be the beneficiaries.
“It is especially galling to hear criticism over my choice of words from a governor who has called New Jersey students drug mules, told students in Trenton that their teachers did not care about them, threatened to take a bat to a respected female state senator and called an New Jersey Assemblyman “numb nuts” for having the courage to stand up to the Governor on the issue of marriage equality.