By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Why Chris Christie says teachers unions deserve a punch in the face
New Jersey Republican appeals to party base, but echoes Democrat in next door New York, a pairing that reflects new education alignments. - photo by Eric Schulzke
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie stirred the controversy pot on Sunday, telling CNN anchor Jake Tapper that teacher unions deserved a punch in the face. The comment made headlines and was hardly a surprise, given Christie's long history of combative discourse.

Christie has been sparring with teachers over pensions and accountability throughout his tenure, most recently being accused of "bullying" a teacher at a town hall meeting in March, as reported.

But, to be accurate, this past Sunday Christie never said the words "punch in the face." And to be fair, he was egged into his comment by CNN anchor Jake Tapper's question.

At the national level, who deserves a punch in the face? Tapper asked.

Oh the national teachers union, who has already endorsed Hillary Clinton 16, 17 months before the election, Christie said.

Here, Christie was referring to the American Federation of Teachers, which has endorsed Clinton, but his critiques of teacher unions were more general.

Unions, he said, are not for education for our children. Theyre for greater membership, greater benefits, greater pay for their members. And they are the single most destructive force in public education in America. I have been saying that since 2009. I have got the scars to show it. But Im never going to stop saying it, because they never change their stripes.

As the Washington Post noted, Christie's comment would likely appeal to the GOP base in a presidential primary campaign overstuffed with contenders and where the bombastic Donald Trump has made the feisty Christie look tame.

But education politics have shifted, as have the policy debates, and Christie's anti-union rhetoric is now not ony found on the right.

Today, some of the most vigorous advocates for charter schools and teacher accountability are the Obama administration, led by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Christie's neighbor to the north who sounds almost identical to Christie on this issue.

Like Christie, Cuomo refers to teacher unions as an industry focused on its own job security and pensions rather than on serving kids.

Somewhere along the way, I believe we flipped the purpose of this, Cuomo told the New York Daily News in January. This was never a teacher employment program and this was never an industry to hire superintendents and teachers."

Responding to teachers who say they represent students, Cuomo to the Daily News said, No, you dont. You represent the teachers. Teacher salaries, teacher pensions, teacher tenure, teacher vacation rights. I respect that. But dont say you represent the students.

And this past May, the United Federation of Teachers launched a multimillion dollar ad campaign against Cuomo and seven New York teachers of the year wrote an open letter to the governor.

"You have made us the enemy," they wrote. "This is personal."
Sign up for our E-Newsletters