Teachers Under Attack!
How NJ Governor Chris Christie's Personal Vendetta Against Teachers Will Destroy Public Education
by Mike Spina
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by Massscorecard.org:
The first impression one gets from this book is "What a whiner!" The author, Mike Spina, says on p. 23, for example, "Christie signed into law… the biggest hit: new part time school employees become part of a defined contribution plan, not a defined benefit pension." (That sounds like a pretty small hit to anyone outside of the trenches of Trenton!) The fact is that in New Jersey, Chris Christie won the gubernatorial election promising to reform education; then as Governor, he reformed education as promised. I encouraged my many family and friends in New Jersey to vote against Christie -- but I acknowledge that Christie won, and that therefore he has a mandate to implement his campaign promises, foremost of which was education reform. The author does not acknowledge anything about an electoral mandate, and instead BLAMES Christie for doing exactly as he promised to do!
The second impression one gets from this book is "What a biased whiner!" The author is well-qualified to write this book -- he is a retired teacher who has run for public office. And he interviews dozens of other well-qualified people -- but only people who agree with him. For example, on pp. 127-9, Spina quotes numerous "experts" agreeing with Spina's opinion, over and over again, that Christie is "trying to bust the NJEA" (the teachers' union). That is the essence of bias -- you quote people saying the same thing as you, to reinforce your own opinion as if it's a fact, without ever citing opposing viewpoints. That bias permeates this book.
The author is certainly colorful in his attacks on Christie. In that sense, it's a fun book to read, because fervency is fun. Some of the fervently colorful terms the author uses:
The theme of this book is encapsulated on p. 166, where the author discusses Christie's appointment of Mayor Cory Booker of Newark as the political overseer for the Newark public school system:
- Personal Vendetta: That's right there in the subtitle of the book!
- Vilifies the state's teachers: p. 39, clarifying that the personal vendetta is against public schoolteachers themselves, not just teachers' unions.
- Christie's War: p. 47, accusing Christie of using students as pawns in that war.
- The Bully of Trenton: p. 124, because he ridicules school superintendents getting a higher salary than the governor.
Of course Booker (and Christie) are not formally "certified" to run the schools -- that would make them have the same technocratic mentality as Spina and his NJEA cronies! Booker and Christie are informally "certified" by having been elected. Neither President Obama nor President George W. Bush before him were "certified" to be Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces -- their ELECTION certified them! One would think that Spina, having run for public office, would understand that elections certify leadership in any field, including schools, and perhaps especially schools, since the electorate views them as failing. Spina disagrees with every aspect of that last statement.
|"The trend of mayor's taking control of school districts would politicize the entire system. In New Jersey, we require certain certifications for you to be running a public school system. Booker doesn't have them."
Mayor Cory Booker is a Democrat, who teamed up with the Republican Governor Christie to reform the failing Newark school system. They did so by getting the founder of Facebook to contribute $100 million. Christie had to appoint Booker as overseer so that the $100 million could be controlled in the manner prescribed by the donor. Unbelievably, Spina considers the $100 million to be a bad idea -- bashing the trend of "celebrity" funding and bashing Christie and Booker as "selling out" (p. 143). That's unbelievable because Spina spends an entire chapter deriding Christie for losing out on $400 million in federal funding (Obama's "Race to the Top" funds) which most assuredly come with more strings attached than the Facebook funds!
The most damning praise I ever received was when, after completing a detailed environmental report concerning northern Arkansas, an Arkansas state official read it and said, "Based on the people you interviewed, I can see how you drew your conclusions." In other words, he was complaining that I interviewed a biased set of people, and then drew biased conclusions based on that selection and presentation. But I had interviewed and cited that state official himself -- so I at least presented the opposing point of view, even if that state official disagreed with my interpretations. Based on the people Spina interviewed, I can see how Spina drew his conclusions.
Spina does not present any opposing points of view, except to bash opposing points of view as "political opinion" in the face of "facts" presented by Spina's "experts." Spina intends this book to present the case for how Christie is factually wrong about education reform. But Spina succeeds in doing the opposite -- demonstrating how the teachers and the NJEA, as represented by Spina, are unwilling to listen to public opinion; consider themselves as the only appropriate decision-makers in education; and are incapable of change because of those two conceits. Christie deserves to win against this crowd -- we accordingly hope he fulfills Spina's nightmare and destroys Spina's constituency -- which may very well improve the New Jersey public school system in the process.
-- Jesse Gordon, Massscorecard editor-in-chief, April 2013
| Massscorecard.org excerpts: (click on issues for details)
Budget & Economy|
Jon Corzine: OpEd: Wall Street image clashed during foreclosure crisis.
Chris Christie: As US Attorney, won 130 corruption cases and lost none.
Arne Duncan: OpEd: Supports merit pay but it is a politicized process.
Barack Obama: Increase school choice & accountability within NCLB.
Barack Obama: To make a difference for kids, become a teacher.
Bill Clinton: Pushed for voluntary national school standards.
Bret Schundler: Fired as Education Commissioner after failed $400M grant.
Bret Schundler: NJ lost $400M in federal funds due to lack of union support.
Chris Christie: OpEd: NJ schools best in US; only urban districts struggling.
Chris Christie: Criticizes NJEA leadership as well as state's teachers.
Chris Christie: OpEd: Portrays tenure as lifetime guarantee, but it's not.
Chris Christie: Tried to cut school superintendent salaries by edict.
Chris Christie: More charter schools; ok for private companies to operate.
Chris Christie: OpEd: Christie & NCLB push teachers; but not students.
Chris Christie: Couldn't measure charter success: lost $14M in federal funds.
Chris Christie: Let school leaders get certified by alternate routes.
Chris Christie: OpEd: Ignores that parents educate kids more than teachers.
Christie Todd Whitman: Failed to make full payments into state pension system.
Cory Booker: 2010: Appointed to oversee $100M donation to Newark schools.
Cory Booker: OpEd: $100M gift to Newark schools was a publicity sellout.
Cory Booker: Supervises Newark schools by gubernatorial appointment.
George W. Bush: OpEd: NCLB is right idea but under-funded & over-complicated.
Mike Bloomberg: Included among celebrity philanthropists who fund schools.
Mike Bloomberg: Pushed for mayoral control of city school system.
Richard Codey: Lt.Gov. created after Codey led both Legislature & Executive.
Ronald Reagan: Espoused school vouchers as part of educational reform.
Thomas Kean Jr.: $6,000 voucher for elementary school; $9,000 for high school.
Tom Menino: First mayor to gain control of big-city school system.
Chris Christie: OpEd: Vetoed "Millionaire's Tax" on wealthiest New Jerseyans.
The above quotations are from Teachers Under Attack!
How NJ Governor Chris Christie's Personal Vendetta Against Teachers Will Destroy Public Education
by Mike Spina.
Autobiographies and Biographies of Governors:
- What A Party!, by gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe (D, VA)
- The Last Line of Defense, by gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli (R, VA)
- Chris Christie: The Inside Story of His Rise to Power, by Bob Ingle and Michael Symons
- Can`t is Not an Option, by Gov. Nikki Haley, April 2012
- Governor`s Travels, by Gov. Angus King, Oct. 2010
- The Governator, by Ian Halperin (about Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-CA), Aug. 2011
- A Governor`s Story, by Jennifer Granholm (D-MI), Oct, 2005
- The Agenda for America, by Gov. Haley Barbour (R, MS), April 1996
- Blue Man in a Red State, by Greg Lemon, (about Gov. Brian Schweitzer, D, MT), June 2008
- Scorpions for Breakfast, by Gov. Jan Brewer (R, AZ), Nov. 2011
- Crossroads: The Future of American Politics, by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D, NY), Oct. 2003
- A Reason to Believe, by Gov. Deval Patrick (D, MA), April 2011
- Against the Tide, by Gov. Lincoln Chafee (I, RI), April 2008
- Teachers Under Attack, by Mike Spina, about Gov. Chris Christie (R, NJ), Feb. 2011
Press Releases etc. from Governors, Mayors, and Justices:
- Gubernatorial State of the State speeches, 2013
- Gubernatorial State of the State speeches, 2012
- Gubernatorial Press Releases, 2011
- Gubernatorial Press Releases, 2010
- Gubernatorial Press Releases, 2001-2009
- Mayoral Press Releases, 2011
- Gubernatorial Campaign websites, 2010-2011
- Mayoral Campaign websites, 2011
- Gubernatorial State of the State speeches, 2011
- Gubernatorial State of the State speeches, 2010
- Mayorial State of the City speeches, 2007-2011
- Gubernatorial Campaign websites, 2010
- Gubernatorial Campaign websites, 2001-2009
- My Grandfather's Son, by Justice Clarence Thomas, Oct. 2008
Page last edited: Jun 30, 2013