Published February 08, 2012
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie called Wednesday for a state teachers union chief to resign, after the union boss said in an interview that "life's not always fair" while arguing against vouchers to send poor students to private schools.
Christie, who has clashed repeatedly with the union over his education proposals, called the remark "outrageous" at a town hall meeting.
The call from the governor was the latest fallout for New Jersey Education Association Executive Director Vincent Giordano, whose own salary tops $300,000.
Giordano made the comment on the local "New Jersey Capitol Report" program over the weekend. During the interview, he was challenged by the host on why low-income families should not have the same options as other families when their child is in a failing school.
"Those parents should have exactly the same options and they do. We don't say that you can't take your kid out of the public school. We would argue not and we would say 'let's work more closely and more harmoniously,'" Giordano said.
When told some families cannot afford to finance the shift to private school without government help, Giordano said: "Well, you know, life's not always fair and I'm sorry about that."
The interview clip swiftly spread on the web, along with reminders about Giordano's healthy salary.
The Newark Star-Ledger reported in 2010 that his salary was nearly $422,000, and total compensation roughly $550,000 when deferred compensation and other benefits are counted.
NJEA spokesman Steve Baker, though, said those reports are not accurate. He said the director's salary is "in the three-hundred thousands, and the low three-hundred thousands."
The NJEA has since put out a lengthy statement clarifying the director's remarks.
"While Mr. Giordano acknowledges that his choice of words may be open to misinterpretation, his intent was to make the point that providing vouchers to a select few students is not the way to address the challenges faced by urban school districts," the statement said.
Giordano went on to say that the union's "record of support for urban education and disadvantaged children is unimpeachable."
He said the union does oppose vouchers, but only because "they will take resources from disadvantaged public schools and only exacerbate the challenges faced by students in those communities."
Giordano said the NJEA supports better funding for urban schools.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.