- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 11, 2015

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday relayed his own battles with teachers’ unions and dismissed the notion of free college as a “typical liberal approach” as he laid out his vision for K-12 and higher education in America.

The address at Iowa State University was Mr. Christie’s fourth major recent policy address, following speeches on entitlement reform, the economy, and foreign policy the potential 2016 contender chose to deliver in New Hampshire, another early presidential state.

“The enemy we face, not teachers, is the mediocrity of inaction — the people who would rather not speak up to fix a broken system because it’s too hard to speak up, or those who would rather shout down those with reasonable, bipartisan solutions because they want to advance their own selfish interests,” Mr. Christie said, according to NorthJersey.com. “We need a president who will fight for parents and their children — to put them in control of their education, not the unions and the education establishment.”

Mr. Christie relayed how he helped push through reforms on teacher tenure in his state and merit pay to schools in Newark while expanding charter schools and the state’s public school choice program, but also noted that a “last in, first out” layoff policy he’s fought against still exists.

Mr. Christie has also said recently that he wants to move New Jersey away from Common Core education standards, which have become deeply unpopular among conservatives.

He said this week on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that he’s changing on the Common Core issue because he “gave it four years to work.”

“I mean, unlike some other folks, who just reflexively dismissed it, I said, all right, let’s give it a chance. Let’s see if it will work. It was originally written by the nation’s governors. Let’s give it a chance. But in four years … we did not have educators or parents buy into Common Core,” he said.

As some Democrats try to make “debt-free college” an issue in 2016, Mr. Christie on Thursday dismissed the notion of making higher education free as a “typical liberal approach.”

“It’s not about just making higher education free, as the president has suggested,” Mr. Christie said. “That is a typical liberal approach to the problem. There are always costs involved, and if college graduates are going to reap the greater economic rewards and opportunities of earning a degree, then it seems fair for them to support the cost of the education they’re receiving.”

To make college more affordable, Mr. Christie raised the idea of income share agreements, where students pay for college with a percentage of future earnings, as well as potentially holding classes at off-peak hours to reduce costs.

“Lots of schools have exorbitant operating and maintenance costs because they’re not optimizing the way they use their physical space,” he said. “They hold all the classes during peak hours ‘cause that’s when the unions want their professors to teach, and so they need to build more facilities, ‘cause if you’re only going to teach between Tuesday and Thursday from like 10 a.m. to 3:00, you need more facilities during that period of time than … other times.”

He pointed out that Kean University in New Jersey has been offering students a 20 percent discount in their tuition for courses they take on Fridays and Saturdays and departments at the University of Iowa have been directed to schedule more classes on Fridays.

Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, responded to the speech by saying that Mr. Christie’s education record in New Jersey “is the epitome of failed leadership: underfunded schools, teacher layoffs and higher college tuition.”

“For someone who like to deride teachers for YouTube fame, Christie has a lot to learn about the priorities that matter to Iowa students, teachers and families,” Ms. McGuire said.

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