So even though the Ruiz bill passed unanimously in the Assembly and the Senate, Chris Christie still feels he has to pretend like he isn't going to sign it:
Gov. Chris Christie Tuesday threw some cold water on a high-profile bill that would toughen requirements for teachers seeking tenure, suggesting it doesn't go far enough a day after state lawmakers in both houses approved it unanimously.
At a town hall in Brick Township, Christie said he hasn't decided whether he will sign the legislation. Seniority rights for teachers should be scrapped, the governor said, potentially delivering an unexpected roadblock just as the bill (S1455) neared the finish line.
Under current law, the newest teachers are the first to be laid off when budgets are cut, while the most senior teachers are the last to go.
"What happens, of course, as a result is that a lot of the younger and most enthusiastic teachers automatically get taken out," Christie told the audience of nearly 750. "Whether I sign it or I veto it, the bottom line is we have to get back to considering 'last in, first out.'"
Oh, sure; Christie's going to leave the entire Republican caucus of both houses high-and-dry by vetoing the Ruiz bill. He's really going to make every Republican in the Legislature go home and explain why they voted for a bill that he turned down. Right...
If you believe that one, I've got some stock in Edison Learning I'd like to sell you.
Of course he's going to sign the bill; his Republican bobble-heads in both houses wouldn't have unanimously passed the thing if it wasn't a done deal. So why the posturing?
Well, the myth - and let's be clear, it is a myth - of vast hordes of burned-out senior teachers serves Christie's purposes well. He can continue to screw teachers out of their promised pensions, justifying his broken promise by intimating that teachers are overpaid to begin with.
He can also tout the non-existent benefits of charter schools, with their high rates of teacher turnover and less-experinced workforces.
But I think there's something more personal at play here: I think Chris Christie is hopping mad that the NJEA may have pulled a fast one on him.
Over at my blog, I've broken down the proposals leading up to the final Ruiz bill: Christie's, NJEA's, and Ruiz's original bill. Here, I add B4K's proposal into the mix. In every proposal except NJEA's, there was:
- The elimination of seniority in layoff decisions.
- Mutual consent, a process that requires principals to sign off on in-district transfers (and consequently makes it more difficult for senior teachers to retain their jobs).
- The elimination of due process before a third party when firing a tenured teacher.
Christie also wanted merit pay and the elimination of salary guides. None of this survived the final bill. It is hardly a stretch to say that NJEA won several major victories here.
And that must bug Christie to no end. After all, he has been on an irrational and unseemly jihad against teachers and their union from day one. He must be sorely pissed that he got played. So, before he gets out his pen and grudgingly signs the bill, one last fit of pique. He just can't help himself.
He can console himself with one thing, however: he has pretty much left the door open toward using standardized tests to evaluate teachers, a point made very well in this op-ed by two teachers from the New Jersey Teacher Activist Group.
This will undoubtedly be the next big fight. Whether Christie has the momentum to carry it out is another matter.