(Correction: In an earlier version the first name of Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson was missing. It is now restored.)
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) is consistent — at least when it comes to espousing total indifference to what Newark residents want for their state-operated public school system. Christie just bragged (see video below) that he told new Newark Mayor Ras Baraka that Baraka’s views on education reform don’t matter a whit — and the governor declared himself “the decider.”
Christie made the comments Thursday while on a panel with other Republican governors at an event in Aspen, Colo., hosted by the nonprofit Aspen Institute, which was described this way on the institute’s Web site:
A panel of Republican governors will address the economy, how they are building skills for a 21st century workforce and share their ideas for improving their state’s education, tax and immigration policies. Featured special guests include: Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. The event will be moderated by Aspen Institute President and CEO Walter Isaacson.
The Newark school system is the largest in New Jersey, with about 40,000 students. It has been under state control since 1994 and was the recipient of the famous $100 million matching donation from Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, which has been used to underwhelming effect.
Superintendent Cami Anderson, a former Teach For America corps member who Christie appointed in 2011, has come under intense attack for her “One Newark” district reorganization plan — which includes plans to close some traditional schools; lay off more than 1,000 teachers and hire Teach For America recruits to fill some open spots; and create a single enrollment system for Newark’s 21 charters and 71 traditional public schools. She has also been blasted for a management style that even reform supporters concede is dismissive, arrogant and ineffective. This past April, dozens of members of the Newark clergy sent a letter to Christie warning him that Anderson’s reform efforts were causing “unnecessary instability” in the city and that they were are “concerned about the level of public anger we see growing in the community” over the issue.
Christie has consistently defended her, saying some months ago:
“I don’t care about community criticism, I care about the job she’s doing.”
Christie, apparently, is the only one who gets to assess whether she is doing a good job. Last May, Newark residents gave their own evaluation by electing Baraka, a former high school principal, councilman and son of the late poet Amiri Baraka, as the next mayor of Newark. He campaigned on an anti-Anderson platform.
When education issues came up at the Aspen Institute event, Christie talked about some of the reforms and said to applause:
“He came in to talk to me about his agenda and said he wanted to speak to me about the education system in Newark. And I said to him listen I’ll listen to whatever you have to say but the state runs the school system, I am the decider, and you have nothing to do with it.”
Perhaps ironically, Christie also said when the discussion moved away from education that the Republican Party had to start listening more to other people. He said in part:
“People want folks who are authentic, and who believe what they say is true. But also are willing to be tolerant and listen to other points of view.”
To be fair, Christie did tell Baraka he would “listen” to him. He just doesn’t care what he has to say.
Here’s the video and following that is the complete video of the event:
Here, if you are interested, is the full video of the event: