UPDATE: Now, the NJEA leader wants CHRISTIE to resign. Here's our full story in Thursday's paper.
WESTFIELD - Gov. Christie today called for the resignation of a leader of the state's largest teacher's union in the wake of the union leader's seemingly dismissive remark about poor children in failing school districts.
"Life's not always fair," said New Jersey Education Association executive director Vincent Giordano on a program that aired earlier this week on NJTV (see video below).
At a news conference after a town hall meeting this morning that was called specifically to address the comment, Christie -- who has long feuded with the NJEA -- came out swinging.
"Vince Giordano has given voice to what the teacher's union really think when it comes to our children who are less fortunate, their families, and what kind of opportunities they should have," Christie said.
He called Giordano's statement "outrageous" and said he was "disgusted" by it.
The comment came when Giordano was asked about the proposed Opportunity Scholarship Act, which would provide tax breaks to companies that fund scholarships so poor children in failing districts can matriculate elsewhere. Christie endorses the proposal.
"We don't think that public funds raised through public tax dollars ought to be diverted to private businesses," Giordano said on the show.
Interviewer Rafael Pi Roman pressed the issue, saying that only the well-off can afford to send their children to better schools, leaving the poor to get a lesser education.
Giordano responded: "Life's not always fair and I'm sorry about that, but to suggest that we take money from taxpayers and give it to certain taxpayers to use to educate their kids outside of the public school just seems to me to be [wrong]."
Giordano was out of the office sick today and unavailable for an interview. But NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer said the comment, which was made a minute before the end of the interview, was a "misinterpretation."
"When he really meant is that with poverty in urban districts, life isn't fair for these kids," Wollmer said.
"These kids didn't choose what happened to them, and that's not fair, but it's even more unfair to impose school vouchers and airlift 10 percent of the kids out and leave 90 percent of the kids with even less money. And that's the type of answer Vince was trying to get into, but the show was drawing to a close and it got wrapped up and that was it."
Wollmer noted that Christie has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in education funding.
These cuts were due in part to the loss of $1 billion in federal stimulus money, Christie’s office said, and the state now actually spends more money on education than when he took office.
"So this governor wants to match up his commitment to urban education with the NJEA?" Wollmer asked. "He better think twice before we really start rolling out the record on that. He's more interested in funneling money out of urban education and into the pockets of millionaires in the form of tax breaks."