The Commissioner of Education traditionally addresses the NJEA convention every year. But not this year. Acting Education Commissioner Rochelle Hendricks declined to take the opportunity to address tens of thousands of teachers on the grounds that the union has shows itself unwilling to work with Governor Christie to effect reform. Hendricks says her door is open if the union wants to discuss rewarding good teachers and replacing bad teachers.
On its face, this is just silly. Somehow, an invitation to talk is evidence of a refusal to work together. Truth be told, Governor Christie wants the NJEA as a political foil and not a partner in reform; Hendricks is merely following the Governor's lead.
Says union head Barbara Keshishian: "Acting Commissioner Hendricks’ refusal to engage in a discussion with professional educators in a professional development setting is astounding. The tone of Hendrick's e-mail is consistent with prior statements from the Christie administration: filled with political rhetoric and inaccurate characterizations of NJEA."
Not only is it astounding, it may be unconsititional. The New Jersey Constitution provides, in relevant part, that "[p]ersons in public employment shall have the right to organize, present to and make known to the State, or any of its political subdivisions or agencies, their grievances and proposals through representatives of their own choosing."
In other words, the Governor and his administration have a Constitutional duty to work with the NJEA.
Truly, this is just another example of the Christie administration's willingness to ignore the law when it suits the Governor. Like the Governor's refusal to fund the public employee pension fund, even though he is legally obligated to do so. or the Governor's failure to balance the State budget (despite his claims to the contrary.)
Apparently, respect for the rule of law is no longer a conservative value.