NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer spoke earlier at the Better Choices Press Conference outside of the Statehouse, ahead of Gov. Christie’s final budget address this afternoon.
Here is the text of his remarks:
Good morning everyone –
I would like to start off this morning by reminding ourselves what we know:
Gov. Christie doesn’t care about public schools. We know that.
After listening to seven Budget Addresses from Gov. Christie, it’s hard to be surprised. The truth is we know what Governor Christie wants to do with this year’s state budget and we know that’s it not in the best interest of any New Jerseyean.
Just consider what Gov. Christie has attempted to do over the past year with his so-called school funding fix, his “fairness formula.” He knows his proposed school funding formula goes against the law, he knows it pits citizens against citizens, children against children yet… he continues to taunt our most vulnerable students with the proposition reducing school aid to certain districts.
And, here’s the worst kept secret in New Jersey: over the course of just 7 years of Gov. Christie has managed to underfund public education by 8 billion dollars, while providing more than 10 billion dollars in tax cuts for corporate welfare.
Think about that. 8 billion is hard for me to even comprehend.
But we can’t make the mistake of thinking about it in terms of budgets or party politics, we have to think about that 8 billion for what it really is: resources for our students.
It’s books. It’s computers. It’s programs. And a loss of 8 billion dollars represents countless missed opportunities.
It’s our duty to remember that while 8 billion dollars sounds like a lot to us, it feels like so much more than that to those students across the state…
Students who are being crammed into classrooms as student-to-teacher ratios skyrocket.
Students who do their best to learn in dilapidated school buildings, without heat or air conditioning or access to clean air.
Students who can’t participate in sports or arts or clubs because funding has been cut.
It’s no secret: Gov. Christie doesn’t care about schools, about children…
And, now, with 7 years of underfunded schools under his belt, we have legislators trying to fix a problem – that they helped create, by the way – with schemes that will only make it worse.
There’s one thing that our schools deserve: adequate and full school funding as mandated by the law.
It’s the same story with the public employee pensions payments –
Gov. Christie couldn’t follow a law that he passed, and now he is going to be make a so-called “full-payment” into the pension system. Sure, we appreciate the payment. But let’s be clear: it’s not a full payment and not what the law requires.
NJEA has a very important message for Governor Christie, the legislature, President Trump, Ms. Betsy DeVos, and Congress: Every time you attack we will resist and we will fight back. When it comes protecting and strengthening public schools, no one will outwork us and no one will outlast us.
Defunding public school kids to provide property tax relief or in the name of so-called “fairness” is unacceptable to us, shortchanging public school kids while providing over $10 billion in tax breaks to wealthy individuals and corporations is unacceptable, and pitting communities against each other by arbitrarily picking winners and losers as our public schools struggle to deal with 8 years of underfunding is also unacceptable to us.
We will NOT stand for it. We will NOT allow it.
We will fight for our schools, we will fight for our children, and, if our legislators will not, we will fight for what’s right for all of New Jersey’s taxpayers.
We urge our elected officials, parents, members of the public, and anyone who cares about the 1.4 million children in our schools to join us in this fight to protect our state’s most important assets, our children and schools.NJEA's principles of fair school funding