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Exclusive: Gov. Christie On Education Reform, DRPA

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Chris Christie

CAPE MAY, N.J. (CBS) – In an exclusive one-on-one interview with Eyewitness News, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie placed the blame for education failures in the Garden State squarely on the primary teachers’ union – the New Jersey Education Association.

He also spoke about a range of topics from the Delaware River Port Authority – to the job performance of new Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett – to the $32,000 that Rutgers University paid Jersey Shore’s Snooki for an appearance.

But most of the interview, conducted in Cape May, was about education reform, largely because the governor is traveling the state selling a plan to change the way teachers are awarded tenure and pay raises.  He wants it to be based on performance – test scores and peer evaluations – not be automatic.

“I put my faith with the people of the state who want something better [in education] and want to get value for what they’re paying for,” the governor said.  He points out that New Jersey spent $25 billion last year on public education so money clearly is not the issue; it’s the teachers’ union and its president Barbara Keshishian.

“I barely know her,” he said.  “I only had one meeting with her, and it didn’t go that well … But I know she’s been an obstacle to real reform.”

The governor said he doesn’t think it would do any good to sit down with her because the union’s not interested in changing the status quo – a system that fails thousands of children each year.

The governor said he’s not made any decisions yet about whether he will endorse a Republican running for president next year.  He’s had dinner meetings with several of the prospective candidates, including Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour.

“Why do you think they want to meet with you?” asked Eyewitness News reporter Ben Simmoneau.

“Because I think we’ve had some success in New Jersey,” Gov. Christie said.

The governor said that no decision has yet been made about the future of Delaware River Port Authority CEO John Matheussen.  Matheussen has been working without a contract at the DRPA since last summer, when the agency came under fire for high salaries and lavish perks.  He says Matheussen’s fate will be decided in consultation with Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett – who took office in January and shortly thereafter made himself chairman of the DRPA board.  Gov. Christie gives Gov. Corbett, a fellow Republican, high marks.

The governor was not so fond of the decision by students at Rutgers University to spend $32,000 for an appearance by Jersey Shore’s Snooki – that payment is reportedly $2,000 more than the university paid acclaimed writer Toni Morrison.

Christie said he didn’t know if Snooki’s visit was the best use of those funds, but that decision is up to the students.

He did say: “I wish she [Snooki] would go back to New York and stay there.”

Reported by Ben Simmoneau, CBS 3

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