In NYC, Christie pushes education reform plan, trashes unions

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie discusses his education proposals at an event Thursday with the Brookings Institution in New York titled "2011: The Year of Education Reform". (AP Photo / Craig Ruttle)

NEW YORK - Gov. Christie linked failing schools in poor places like Camden to teen drug use, crime and pregnancy, and said that's why he wants to give tenure to teachers based on their effectiveness, rather than seniority, and give higher salaries to teachers of at-risk children.

"If I had gone to school in the city of Newark, I would not be governor, it's that simple," said Christie, whose parents moved from Newark to middle-class Livingston when he was 5 years old.

The reason why failing districts in poor cities cannot produce future governors, he said, is not because of money. It is because, simply, of the teachers' unions, and the "strangehold" they have over politicians, particularly Democrats.

"Some in political life are captives to a moneyed special interest that bullies and thugs it's way in my statehouse to get what they want," he said.

Christie said he wants to base job security on both students' test scores and evaluations by other educators, and get rid of the "last in, last out" system that leads to the layoffs of young, talented teachers and raises for poor teachers. Increased salaries, he said, should go to good teachers, not just ones who get extra degrees to contractually hike their pay.

"We should be paying good teachers more than we are paying them," he said. "We should be carrying those teachers on our shoulders to school every day because they're gold, and we should be paying them that way."

Christie spoke at a hotel off Central Park in Manhattan in an address sponsored by the Brookings Institution think tank.

Read tomorrow's Inquirer and for a full recap of the speech, and reaction from the unions.