From the Star-Ledger in New Jersey:
Science and math teachers should be paid more than gym teachers, Gov. Chris Christie told a national audience today during a live online chat on Facebook.
“You have to pay them more than we pay the gym teacher. I’m sorry, in today’s society they’re more valuable,” he said.
In an interview also touching on taxes, “Jersey Shore” and his decision not to run for president, Christie spoke about reforming education in New Jersey — “if I’m able to get it done” — as the “most important thing I’ll do as governor.”
Christie also cautioned Republicans not to underestimate President Obama in next year’s election, referring to him as a “formidable” candidate.
“Anyone who underestimates the president underestimates at their own peril,” Christie said. “(Democrats) know how to campaign, they know politics. … People who believe he’s a shoo-in loser are wrong.”
One of Christie’s education proposals is merit pay, or offering bonuses to teachers who are more successful or who teach in high-need schools or subject areas. “You have to incentivize people to be science and math teachers,” he said in response to a question about how to improve schools in those subject areas.
Along with merit pay, Christie listed tenure reform; more charter schools and school choice; and a longer school day and year as his proposals for change.
A spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association, reached afterward, bristled at Christie’s comments, and called his statement about gym teachers “subjective judgment.”
“What’s he got against gym teachers?” NJEA spokesman Steve Wollmer asked. “The role a teacher plays at all levels is equally important, equally challenging and contributes equally to the outcome.
“Sound body, sound mind,” he said.
Wollmer said the union has had effective programs that increased the number of STEM teachers in New Jersey, by training existing teachers in areas such as physics and chemistry.
He also said the union has proposed substantive tenure reforms.
Christie was interviewed at Facebook headquarters in California by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The interview was upbeat; Christie has a history with Facebook, dating back to founder Mark Zuckerberg’s pledge last year of $100 million to improve Newark schools. Christie also invited Zuckerberg to “come to New Jersey” if he is looking to open a new office.
The Governor’s flight to California was paid for by the Committee for Our Children’s Future, a non-profit group, according to a Christie spokesman.
The interview can be viewed here.