Transcript From A Segment Of Governor Christie’s Keynote Speech At The Foundation For Excellence In Education Dinner In Washington, DC On Tuesday, November 30, 2010
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie:
Now you know all the issues and I’m not going to bore you with going through a litany of them – merit, tenure reform and elimination, real accountability in the classroom, shared sacrifice by everybody to try to remake this system. We’re doing these things in New Jersey, we’re fighting to do them in New Jersey. And whether it’s expanding parental choice, trying to make sure that you reform the leaders of our educational system - superintendents and principals who seem, at times, to care more about how making they’re making than how much they’re achieving. It’s a pinball from district to district to get higher and higher salaries, and crazy school districts in New Jersey, especially our suburban ones, who believe the more they pay their superintendent, the more valuable their district must be. [laughter] This conspiracy among the superintendents is extraordinary, and you’re watching it play out in New Jersey right now because we’ve imposed a cap on superintendent pay. [applause]
Now, being a superintendent of schools is a hard job. When it’s done well, it’s particularly hard. But I’ll tell you this: it’s no harder than my job. [laughter] Now, I make $175,000 a year. So I said, how about this: you don’t make any more than me. [laughter and applause] And if you want to make more than me, here’s how you do it. You’re eligible up to a twenty percent bonus on top of that for objectively measured accomplishment by the students in your district. You achieve, I’ll pay you. [applause] Showing up for work is not a good enough excuse to get more and more money. Now think about this: seventy percent of the superintendents in New Jersey make more money than the governor. Seventy percent. Now imagine this. In the conspiracy of superintendents and elected school boards, the cap goes into effect on February 7th. Any contract which expires after February 7th, the new contract must conform with the cap.
What’s happening across New Jersey right now? [laughter] Folks who are in the middle of their contract getting five year contract extensions at salaries over the cap. Superintendents writing op-ed pieces as if they’re disinterested observers. [laughter] For the first time in their lives, upset about the awful onerous arm of government coming in to interfere with the free market. [laughter and applause] Imagine this: I am being sued today by a school board who wants to give their superintendent a salary higher than the cap, and is spending taxpayer money to sue the Governor and the Commissioner of Education to get the higher salary for their superintendent, despite the fact that dozens of citizens showed up at the school board meeting to protest it. This is Dr. Leroy Seitz in Parsippany, New Jersey, who I have now crowned the new poster boy of greed and arrogance in public education in New Jersey. [applause] But as this fight is going on, let me explain to you that Dr. Seitz is getting company, people are competing in New Jersey for me to give them a new title. [laughter]
Why is this important, why is this fight important? Because shared sacrifice is going to be required of everybody to fix this system. It’s not that we don’t have enough money, we have more than enough money in New Jersey in this system. It’s that this money is being spent so ineffectively, so inefficiently, and again with the focus on the adults and not the children. That – we have to fight it at every level. So if you’re going to talk about the teachers’ union – and I know what you’re here for, so don’t worry I’ll get to it. [laughter] If you’re going to talk about the teachers’ union, you’ve got to talk about the administrators also, who are failing in leadership, who are being overpaid for that failure, and who need now, to have the good ones stand up and say I will be part of the sacrifice in order to repair this system and make it better for the children, who we’re supposed to be serving and their families who are paying the bills. [applause]