The temperature in Green Bay at this Sunday’s NFL divisional playoff game between the Packers and the Dallas Cowboys will be in the upper teens. But don’t worry: New Jersey governor Chris Christie will be well shielded from the cold.
It’s not clear if the governor will be traveling to Wisconsin in a private jet*, as he did to Dallas when the Cowboys faced the Detroit Lions last week, but he will–once again–sit with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in a warm, toasty luxury box while the Green Bay masses watch the game in the cold. (Christie has announced he’s paying his own way this time to “keep silliness out of the football season.”)
While news of Christie’s Cowboy-love isn’t new, recent media coverage of him groping Jerry Jones in celebration has renewed banter about the significance of the governor’s Cowboys allegiance. His sharpest critics have leaped to criticize the governor for deliberately flaunting his fandom in the faces of his constituents, most of whom are Eagles and Giants fans, but others have scoffed at those critics–citing a “who cares which football team he likes?” stance.
But this is about so much more than a football allegiance.
(Disclosure: I grew up and live in South Jersey, about 15 minutes across the bridge from Center City Philadelphia, and I’m a loyal Eagles fan. My father, who grew up in Jersey City, is a Giants fan. Are our teams bitter rivals? Yes. Do I hate my father as person because he’s a Giants fan?
Not really Of course not; that would be ridiculous.)
For most offended New Jerseyans, Christie’s Cowboys love affair simply added fuel to what seems to be an eternal flame of Christie offenses–virtually all of which smack of the hypocrisy, corruption, arrogance, and immorality that are characteristic of oligarchs everywhere. There was Bridgegate; now there’s Tollgate; there were the shouting matches with teachers and students; there’s the constant disparagement of public employees; there are the pension lies and offenses; there’s the Port Authority contract that was awarded to Jerry Jones’s firm; there was all that shady stuff Mark Halperin and John Heilemann wrote about in Double Down: Game Change 2012; and there are lots of other offenses that I don’t have time to list here.
But one of Christie’s worst offenses is his refusal to adequately fund New Jersey’s public schools, which have missed out on $6 billion under his watch.
Among those feeling the worst effects of those cuts are students in New Jersey’s urban districts, where they and their teachers go to school each day without even the most basic needs.
Case in point: just yesterday, Stephen Danley–an assistant professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers Camden–published this post, which describes the conditions at Camden High from the perspective of a teacher there:
I teach at Camden High and spent the entire day in a building without heat. This is not unusual. We wear our coats and are advised to wear “thermals.” When a cold snap hits, it is brutal.
Danley’s post circulated quickly, and the above report was corroborated by another teacher who worked in Camden:
As a retired teacher who taught in Camden for years and a suburbanite who took a job in Camden instead of offers from suburb districts because I thought I’d be more helpful in Camden, I can affirm that this happens. Not only in the winter and there’s no heat in the building, but in the early start of school and in May and June when the old buildings are over 98 degrees and no AC is provided. I used to put at thermometer in my room so I knew what the temp was. The other problem was that if we did have heat ion the winter, the boiler in the building was so old that the rooms were sometimes over 100 degrees … Hotter than than it was in the summer. As teachers, we wished the parents would come in and just sit a few minutes in the classroom and then make complaints. This has gone on for years in Camden.
(Read both of Steve Danley’s posts in their entirety. They’re fabulous.)
Chris Christie refers to schools like Camden High as “failure factories” that “send children on a no-stop route to prison and to failed dreams” because of adults who “enjoy higher benefits, higher salaries and lifetime pensions.” (Yeah, those greedy teachers who’ve chosen to devote their professional lives to urban children. It must be so nice for kids and teachers to wear snuggly thermals to work each day because their buildings aren’t heated.)
What Christie fails to acknowledge is that under his watch, the financial misappropriation that plagues urban districts all over the state comes at the expense of traditional public school students, who are being turned over-in many cases without their consent–to largely unaccountable, privately-managed charter operators.
So is Chris Christie entitled to root for whichever NFL team he likes? Obviously. Is it offensive that he purposely disparages a good portion of his constituency in discussing his love for the Cowboys? Yes. Is that alone reason enough to hate him? Not necessarily (although I know many Giants and Eagles fans would say it most certainly is). And would Camden High have been heated properly if Christie stayed home to watch football from home? Obviously not. That’s not the point.
The point is this: Christie’s private jet-setting, luxury box-sitting love affair with Jerry Jones and his organization highlights the kind of excess the governor clearly enjoys and regularly flaunts–while poverty rates go up, incomes go down, and children go to school in conditions that would shock most people in New Jersey.
And that’s disgusting.
Enjoy your private jet and the warmth of your luxury box this weekend, Governor Christie.
And when you feel the sting of the Green Bay cold as you hurry from your private jet to your limo to Jerry’s luxury box at Lambeau, think of how hard it must be for Camden’s kids to learn when they feel that same sting within the walls of their school.
*Adding: The Dallas trip last week was reportedly a “gift” from Jerry Jones, although many have speculated that Christie’s security detail was paid for by NJ taxpayers. According to the S-L’s Tom Moran, Jones’s “gift”–transportation in a private jet, seats in the owner’s box, field access–probably cost between $125,000 and $150,000