There's an old joke that goes like this:
Q: How do you know when a politician is lying?
A: When their lips are moving.
I guess now that Christie's poll numbers are in the tank, his ego is pushing him to appear relevant. So what does he do when his back is against the wall? Attack public education of course.
In true Christie style, he gave a speech yesterday that even Pinocchio would cringe at, ripping into the state's school funding formula—one of the most progressive in the nation—and vowing to change it to flat funding.
There are so many things wrong with it that it's hard to know where to begin. But let's start with this: Gov. Christie used the word 'unfair' seven times in his speech. So here are seven things that are unfair not only with his proposals, but with how he has treated public education over the past 6 years:
1. Gov. Christie has cut almost $7 billion in education funding statewide, and given away just about that much in corporate tax breaks, yet he has the nerve to claim that urban education is 'failing'.
2. Under Gov. Christie, urban charter schools have bled their host public school districts of hundreds of millions of dollars, which has forced massive layoffs and cuts to programs and vital services.
3. Under Gov. Christie, segregation has skyrocketed in urban school districts as charters habitually skim the best and brightest (and least expensive to educate) students, and toss those most in need of additional resources back to cash-starved public schools.
4. Under Gov. Christie's new funding formula urban districts would be drastically underfunded, thus devastating the very schools and students he claims to want to help most.
5. Under Gov. Christie, aid to those most in need in this state has been slashed. Funding for women's health centers, housing assistance for low income and chronically ill citizens, food stamps, and earned income tax credits have all been red-lined. He even fought the raise in the state minimum wage. These cuts directly affect parents in our large, urban centers, many of whom were already struggling to make ends meet before he became governor. And when their children do not have a good head start in life (like the majority in our wealthier, whiter suburbs), they have greater learning hurdles to overcome.
6. He simply will not, as he claims, "make sure that we have the aid for special needs students so that they may reach their potential too." Why? Because he is going to slash funding to our poorest, neediest districts where there generally tends to be a larger population of special needs children. He has not once kept his word to public school districts. Why should we believe him now?
7. This plan simply will not reduce property taxes. The year after Gov. Christie imposed the 2% tax cap, property taxes across the state skyrocketed an average of 20%. I don't know about you, but my property taxes have only gone up since then. But if by chance property taxes do decrease, it will be a massive tax break for wealthy, white, suburban NJ, and a massive tax hike for poor, brown and black urban areas.
So, what will work?
- Fair school funding, not equal funding. The two are very different.
- Full funding of our public schools as required by the law
- A moratorium on the expansion of segregationist charter schools
- Access to quality, affordable prenatal health care for every expectant mother in NJ
- Access to quality, affordable health care for every man, woman and child in this state
- Access to fresh, quality food in our urban centers
- Safe urban neighborhoods with true community schools as their anchors
- A living wage—not a minimum wage—so that parents don't have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet
- An end to unfunded mandates
This is just a start. There is much more that can and should be done, but unless and until profits are removed from the public education equation, things will never change.
Before I go...
Hat tip to my bloggy buddies, Jersey Jazzman and Dr. Bruce Baker for always having facts and figures at the ready...
... and Darcie Cimarusti (aka Mother Crusader) for reminding us what 'fair' really means: