In a recent interview on CNN, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie argued that the “national teachers union” deserves a “punch in the face” because it is “not for education for our children” but is rather for “greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members.”
But how does that statement square with Christie’s actions as governor?
Here’s his recent explanation as to why his state adopted the national Common Core Standards: “We signed on to try to get funds during a really difficult fiscal time.”
Until recently, he had been an ardent supporter of the Common Core. In 2013 he was quoted as saying, “We’re doing Common Core in New Jersey and we’re going to continue. And this is one of those areas where I’ve agreed more with the President than not.”
By 2014, Christie had somewhat changed his tune: “I have some real concerns about Common Core and how it’s being rolled out and that’s why I put a commission together to study it.” In early 2015, Christie had again taken a newly evolved position as he said, “I have grave concerns about the way this is being done, and especially the way the Obama administration has tried to implement it through tying federal funding to these things,” he said.
During an appearance on Face the Nation, after having expressed his reticence about Common Core, Christie said of his state’s use of the Standards:
. . . I gave it four years to work. I mean, unlike some other folks, who just reflexively dismissed it, I said, all right, let’s give it a chance. Let’s see if it will work. It was originally written by the nation’s governors. Let’s give it a chance. But in four years, John, we did not have educators or parents buy into Common Core.
Underlying Christie’s actions on Common Core is one thing: the money. He jumped all over it because of the federal money. And what of his recent decision to study, through a state commission, Common Core?
Prudent leaders study things before they sign on to them—especially when the stakes are a child’s education.
But has Christie learned anything?
Despite expressing concerns about the Common Core, he is still committed to having the children of New Jersey take the much-maligned PARCC standardized tests, which were developed with federal money and are aligned to the Common Core. In that regard, he said, “I will not permit New Jersey to risk losing vital federal education funds because some would prefer to let the perfect get in the way of the good.”
As Chris Tienken, associate professor of education at Seton Hall, told NJ.com, “If the accountability indicators are all pointing to the test aligned to the Common Core, what do we think is going to happen in the classroom? What gets tested gets taught.” Furthermore, federal law requires the state standards to be aligned to the state assessments.
In other words, Christie won’t let the best interests of the students get in the way of federal funding.
If Christie were serious about getting New Jersey out of Common Core, he would set the course for high-quality standards—such as what Massachusetts had before Common Core—and reclaim his state’s control over the testing. He would also lay down the marker to get the federal government out of the business of telling a state when and in what subjects it subjects children to standardized tests.
Permitting the behemoth of Common Core to increasingly tighten its grip around New Jersey schools in exchange for federal funding makes Chris Christie the last thing the Republican base is looking for in the next president.
Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APIA Education.