Complaints Without Alternatives

Complaints Without Alternatives

OPINION: Christie Is Tired Of Public School Teachers, And You Should Be Too

 By Cathy Reisenwitzyoungvoicesadvocates.com

School LunchesWhile no one’s sure exactly what happened, Mediaite is reporting that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and public school teacher and member of the Badass Teachers Association Melissa Tomlinson got into a verbal altercation at the end of a campaign stop this weekend in Somers Point, N.J.

It seems Tomlinson showed up to express her disagreement with Christie’s education agenda, asking “Why are you portraying our schools as failure factories?”

“What do you want?” he allegedly responded “I’m tired of you people.” Tomlinson alleges they had a brief argument before “he told me to do my job and turned around and got on the bus.”

A look at both the Badass Teachers Association (inexplicably BAT) and Christie’s track record on education brings us to the inevitable conclusion that Christie has every reason to be sick and tired of public school teachers. And that everyone who wants to see every New Jersey child given the opportunity to learn should be tired of them too.

A visit to the BAT website is immediately revealing. In big, bold typeface, the site declares that this is an organization dedicated to helping teachers avoid responsibility for student outcomes: “This association is for every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality, and refuses to accept assessments, tests and evaluations imposed by those who have contempt for real teaching and learning.”

Perhaps people who want some kind of accountability for instruction are not actually contemptuous of teaching or learning.

A video on the site’s about page explains why the organization expressly opposes education reform.

On the BAT blog, the latest post begins with the following grammatically incorrect, incoherent run-on sentence, “I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I have been interviewed and the moment I discuss the time I take to get to the root of the concerns of my students to ensure the highest outcomes and performance from them, the interviewer or current teacher (who is looking for a replacement) would immediately say ‘well there just isn’t time for that.’”

The BAT Facebook page plays gender politics right out of the gate, with an image macro claiming that because most teachers are female, and most legislators are men, Chris Christie’s treatment of Tomlinson is a women’s rights issue.

By contrast, Governor Christie has pushed for opening up more educational options for New Jersey’s students. First by signing into law a four-year pilot program which enables kids stuck in New Jersey’s seven worst-performing school districts to escape to private schools. Earlier this year the Huffington Post reported that Christie’s proposed state budget  pushed hard for more school choice in struggling districts, while still expanding spending for public schools.

Governor Christie’s Interdistrict Public School Choice Program has grown to 136 districts serving 5,500 students, according to Philly.com. It’s a widely loved and incredibly successful program.

The trend toward successful, beloved, effective school choice programs is one you can see across the nation.

The Stanford University CREDO team’s latest report shows that charter schools are showing significant educational gains, particularly among the least well off. The CREDO team found that:

On average, students attending charter schools have eight additional days of learning in reading and the same days of learning in math per year compared to their peers in traditional public schools. In both subjects, the trend since 2009 is on an upward trajectory, with the relative performance of the charter sector improving each year.

Furthermore, the gains aren’t distributed evenly, but go to help black students, students in poverty, and English language learners more than others. Black students in poverty who attend charter schools gain an additional 29 days of learning in reading and 36 days in math per year over their traditional public school counterparts.

With those results, it’s difficult to see why anyone who advocates for students would want to see them denied the opportunity to succeed. The claim that expanding school choice in New Jersey is hurting public schools seems pretty ludicrous when you realize that, according to the Huffington Post, New Jersey’s property taxes are already the highest in the nation, and schools use most of the money.

What alternatives to school choice does BAT offer? Under BAT in Action, the site has one activity: Calling the White House to ask President Obama to replace successful Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I guess now they can add getting in verbal altercations with governors to the list. But I’m not sure how either will help New Jersey’s children.

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Cathy Reisenwitz is a Young Voices Associate and a D.C.-based writer and political commentator. She is Editor-in-Chief of Sex and the State and her writing has appeared in Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo, the Washington Examiner and the Daily Caller.

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