The Fort Lee Education Association is deeply offended by the disparaging remarks made about our students by David Wildstein, the childhood friend of Governor Chris Christie who worked at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. When members of the Christie Administration callously created a traffic nightmare in our community, Mr. Wildstein wrote that Fort Lee’s youth are “the children of Buono voters” so there was no problem with them being stuck in gridlock and late to school.
The more than 400 teachers and Educational Support Professionals who belong to the Fort Lee Education Association come to work daily to equip these children for their future. Our only mission is to provide the best possible education for our students every school day. We never judge our students based on the politics of their parents, because their education is our only concern. For Mr. Wildstein, though, they were nothing more than acceptable collateral damage of a politically-motivated attack on our community.
This is not the first time Fort Lee schools have been attacked by the Christie Administration. Several years ago, the governor made deep, harmful cuts in state aid to our district. Fort Lee High School students protested in the street as they saw the damage being done to their school. Unfortunately, Governor Christie did not listen to the pleas of the students, so valuable educational programs were eliminated and members of the Fort Lee Education Association were sent to the unemployment line.
Even though Governor Christie came to Fort Lee to apologize for the traffic nightmare intentionally created by his administration, the fact is he has fostered an environment in his administration of hostility toward public schools and the people who work in them. He is part of a movement that promotes the corporate privatization of schools. Students are seen as commodities to help private companies increase profits. Mr. Wildstein’s remarks exemplify the true contempt this administration has for New Jersey’s public school students.
We recall when Governor Christie came to Fort Lee High School two years ago to appear on a television program and promote his educational policies. He did not speak to the students or members of the Fort Lee Education Association. That was indicative of the attitude in the Christie Administration, where promoting the governor’s image was more important than listening to the people who spend their lives in public schools. That same attitude is what allowed Mr. Wildstein to think that it was acceptable to make such despicable remarks about our students as they sat stuck in traffic instead of being in their classrooms learning.
Mr. Wildstein owes a personal apology to the students whose education he disrupted and whose value he denigrated with such callous indifference.