Christie repeatedly bashes NJEA in S.C. for running $140M 'political slush fund'

By Matt Arco | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on June 03, 2015

 

GREENVILLE, S.C. — Gov. Chris Christie is relying on a familiar foe as he courts conservative Republicans in the South in an attempt to shore up support ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign: New Jersey teacher unions.

The governor has railed against the leaders of New Jersey's largest teachers' union at least twice so far since kicking off a two-day tour Wednesday of the early-primary voting state of South Carolina. Without calling the New Jersey Education Association out by name, Christie accused the union of managing a $140 million "political slush fund to award their friends and punish their enemies."

He also promised GOP voters that teacher unions will be the largest donors to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic frontrunner, in the upcoming presidential election.

The governor, speaking to a packed room at Tommy's Country Ham House located in the most politically active Republican county in the state, said the fights he waged with union leaders in New Jersey could be an example of the battles he would take on for education reform if he runs for president.

"It's one of the first fights that I took on when I became governor," said Christie, referring to "taking on the teachers' union, tenure reform and school choice."

But before discussing what he says have been his accomplishments with reforming New Jersey's education system, Christie told South Carolina voters that teachers "deserve a union as good as they are," but have so far been denied that privilege.

"State law requires that every teacher be a member of the teachers' union and requires that they pay $730 a year in dues to the teachers' union," Christie said.

"We have 200,000 teachers in New Jersey, so just do the math, that means the teachers' union every year in New Jersey collects $140 million in dues," he said. "And they don't contribute a nickel to teacher salary, teacher pension or teacher health care cost. It's a $140 million political slush fund."

Not to the crowd's surprise, Christie said he drawn the ire of teacher union leaders in the Garden State.

The governor, promising to return to Greenville in the near future, suggested his experience fighting with the unions would make him best suited to take them on in the national arena.

"I guarantee you the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers will be the largest raisers and donors for Hillary Clinton of any other organization," he said. "They will raise the most money because they have the most at stake."

The charges in South Carolina of the NJEA running a "political slush fund" weren't the first time Christie used the expression to attack the union.

In 2013, Christie said teachers' union run by "bullies" and the Democrats who supported it were to blame for blocking education reforms.

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