Why teachers think Gov. Christie is a bully

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie says he’s not a bully, but there are plenty of teachers in New Jersey who would disagree.
Here’s a small part of the transcript from the press conference that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie gave on Thursday to proclaim his innocence in the scandal in which some of his aides jammed traffic by shutting down access lanes from Fort Lee to the George Washington Bridge in order to punish a Democratic mayor:

Q: Your critics say this reveals that you are a political bully, that your style is payback. Are you? And does this compromise your ability to serve?

GOV. CHRISTIE: No, I’m not. Hey, listen, Kelly (sp). Politics ain’t bean bag, OK? And everybody in the country who engages in politics knows that. On the other hand, that’s very, very different than saying that, you know, someone’s a bully. I have very heated discussions and arguments with people in my own party and on the other side of the aisle. I feel passionately about issues. And I don’t hide my emotions from people. I am not a focus-group tested, blow- dried candidate or governor.

Now, that has always made some people, as you know, uneasy. Some people like that style, some people don’t. And I’ve always — I think you asked me the question day after the election, are you willing to change your style in order to appeal to a broader audience?

And I think I said no because I am who I am. But I am not a bully.

Melissa Tomlinson, the elementary school teacher  in the picture above, would take issue with that. When she asked him a simple question– “Why do you continue to spread the myth that our schools and teachers are failing?” at a rally last November, he pointed a finger at her (as the picture above shows) and shouted:

“Because they are!”

He also said:

“I am tired of you people. What do you want?”

Christie can’t seem to stop slamming the state’s public schools and its teachers, even though New Jersey does extremely well on a range of standardized test scores, the metric that Christie himself thinks is the best way to evaluate teachers and schools.

As blogger Jersey Jazzman notes in this post (titled “The GWB Is Not Chris Christie’s Greatest Sin”):

Christie has consistently underfunded schools, while his secretive Schools Development Authority has dragged its feet and allowed students in Trenton, Paterson, Newark and elsewhere to attend crumbling, disgusting schools.

Christie has been at the forefront of privatizing government functions, evidenced by the scandal surrounding his privatization of prisons and his charter school expansion plans, which are bringing in operators who grew fat in other states.

 and this:

Christie has waged a war on the teaching profession so shameful that I wonder if gifted young people will ever again consider a career in education within our state.

Jersey Jazzman, a New Jersey music teacher who blogs anonymously, has chronicled a number of swipes Christie has taken at teachers, including:

July, 2010, MSNBC:

The state teachers union said — they had a rally in Trenton against me. Thirty-five thousand people came from the teachers. You know what that rally was? The “me first” rally. “Pay me my raise first. Pay me my free health benefits first. Pay me my pension first. And everybody else in New Jersey, get to the back of the line.” Well, you know what? I’m not going to sit by and allow that to go unnoticed, so we’ll shine a bright light on it, and we’ll see how the people react. But I think we are seeing how the people of New Jersey are reacting, and that’s how you make it politically palatable in other states in the country. Just shine a bright light on greed and self-interest.

and

November 2010, The Trentonian:

“These teachers have all summer off. Can’t they have their convention during the summer?’’ the governor said as he spoke to a clutch of high schoolers surrounding him.

“They got to get two days off from school because, you know, they don’t get enough time off now, right? They get two weeks off at Christmas, they get all the different holidays, then they get all the summer off and now they need two more days.

“Why do you think that is? Do you think if they cared about learning where would they be today?’’

Ashley Batts, 16, a Trenton Central High School sophomore answered “in school.’’

“That’s right, in school, baby, they would not be down there in Atlantic City having a party — because that’s what it is.’’

Jersey Jazzman noted: “Does everyone understand that the Governor of New Jersey told a group of students that their teachers do not care about learning? Does everyone think that’s acceptable?”

You can find more examples here. And here are five myths about Christie’s school reform policies.

Bullies are people who repeatedly intimidate or harm others. Is Christie a bully? Teachers think so.

GALLERY: Celebrities who started as teachers

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss | January 8