"They believe in teachers unions," New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said in last night's RNC keynote address. "We believe in teachers." But according to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, Christie and the Republicans haven't shown much faith in either.
"What you saw last night ... was a speech that just tried to tear down, was a speech that was full of anger, and not full of answers," said Weingarten on Wednesday's Jansing & Co.
Republicans have made opposition to teachers unions a central part of their education policy. In fact, the official Republican Party platform reads, in part, "We support putting the needs of students before the special interests of unions." And while Christie is widely known as a Republican moderate, he has been at the forefront of the anti-teachers union push, beginning with his trademark pension reductions in 2010. More recently, the New Jersey governor signed legislation that bars public sector unions from bargaining for pension increases for the next four years. In his speech to the Republican National Convention, he hailed pension reform as one of his own signature achievements.
"The reforms that the Republicans are suggesting are the reforms that we've actually been doing for the last decade, and they haven't been working," said Weingarten.
Notably, the Republican governor most well known for successfully undermining teachers unions avoided the subject in his speech to the RNC. Wisconsin's Scott Walker, who successfully passed legislation banning collective bargaining for teachers in 2011, didn't even mention teachers in his Tuesday address. The closest he got was an oblique reference to "big government special interests in Washington" who he said lost when he won Wisconsin's June 5 recall election. That recall was famously sparked by outrage over his anti-collective bargaining legislation.
Republicans are more outspoken about their opposition to public employee collective bargaining, but they're not the only ones who have voted to restrict it; the Democratic legislature in Massachusetts voted to "eliminate collective bargaining as we know it" in April of last year.