(Updates with response from union spokesman beginning in eighth paragraph.)
Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he has nothing against gym teachers, after the state’s education union criticized his comment that math and science teachers should earn more than those in physical education.
“Cut the crap,” Christie, a first-term Republican, said today when a reporter asked him to respond to comments by Steve Wollmer, a spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association.
The Star-Ledger newspaper quoted Wollmer as saying “What’s he got against gym teachers?” after Christie said science and math teachers should be paid more than gym teachers, during a live Facebook chat on Nov. 14. Wollmer confirmed those comments today in a telephone interview.
Christie called Wollmer’s response “juvenile.”
“You know I don’t hate gym teachers,” he told reporters in Secaucus, where he urged legislators to pass his proposals to overhaul the public-education system. His measures would institute merit pay for teachers and make it easier for administrators to fire teachers deemed to be inadequate.
Schools need math and science teachers, so they should offer higher pay to draw them, Christie said.
Christie has battled the 195,000-member teachers’ union after cutting school aid and raising employee pension and benefit costs. He has called NJEA leaders “political thugs.”
Wollmer said he didn’t mean to imply that Christie “hated” gym teachers, only to ask what the governor “has against them,” he said in a phone interview.
“‘Cut the crap’ isn’t very gubernatorial, is it?” Wollmer said. “The more important point is he was making the case that gym teachers -- I prefer the term ’physical-education instructors’ -- are less important. Each teacher contributes equally to students’ success.”
Physical-education teachers are no less educated than their counterparts in math and science, Wollmer said. Their college training includes exercise physiology and other health-oriented areas, he said.
“It’s not an easy course of study,” he said.
--Editors: Stacie Servetah, Mark Schoifet
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