Governor Chris Christie snapped at a teacher who asked about his criticism of public schools during a campaign stop on Saturday in Somers Point.

Governor Christie's campaign bus at Rutgers (Facebook)
A picture said to be of Governor Christie snapping at a teacher during a campaign stop in Somers Point (@daveweigel via Twitter)

Melissa Tomlinson, who works in the Buena public schools, asked the governor during a stop in Somers Point, “Why are you portraying our schools as failure factories?" according to the Star Ledger account of the encounter. Christie,  who was about to get on his campaign bus, turned around and snapped,  “What do you want? I’m tired of you people."

They exchanged words and Christie, wagging his finger in her face, was head to say, " You people! Just do your job.”

Dave Weigel, a reporter for the website Slate, posted a picture to Twitter of what he said was a photo of the incident.

Tomlinson is a member of the Badass Teachers Association (BAT) who says their mission is to " give voice to every teacher who refuses to be blamed for the failure of our society to erase poverty and inequality through education" according to their Facebook page. Their members have already created posts and spread the word about the incident. "That teacher is a BAT! With 31,000 behind her on the BADASS group and all of you reading here. He wagged his finger at the wrong person," posted the group in response to a post.

Tomlinson, meanwhile, posted a letter on the website, in response to the governor. "Apparently that question struck a nerve. When you swung around at me and raised your voice, asking me what I wanted, my first response “I want more money for my students," wrote Tomlinson. "Notice, I did not ask for more money for me. I did not ask for my health benefits, my pension, a raise, my tenure, or even my contract that I have not had for nearly three years."

Tomlinson also spoke to the website about the encounter as well. She was holding a sign defending public schools and says after their discussion the crowd of mostly Christie supporters also started arguing with her. She says she tried to follow the campaign bus to its next stop in Atlantic City but the roads were blocked by police.

Election Day is Tuesday with the polls open from 6 a.m. - 8 p.m. Christie holds a 20% lead in the polls over Democrat challenger Senator Barbara Buono heading for Election Day.

Melissa Tomlinson's Letter To Governor Christie

Dear Governor Christie,

Yesterday I took the opportunity to come hear you speak on your campaign trail. I have never really heard you speak before except for sound bytes that I get on my computer. I don't have cable, I don't read newspapers. I don't have enough time. I am a public school teacher that works an average of 60 hours a week in my building. Yes, you can check with my principal. I run the after-school program along with my my classroom position. I do even more work when I am at home. For verification of this, just ask my children.

I asked you one simple question yesterday. I wanted to know why you portray NJ Public Schools as failure factories. Apparently that question struck a nerve. When you swung around at me and raised your voice, asking me what I wanted, my first response “I want more money for my students.” Notice, I did not ask for more money for me. I did not ask for my health benefits, my pension, a raise, my tenure, or even my contract that I have not had for nearly three years.

We got into a small debate about how much money has been spent on education. Too me, there is never enough money that is spent on education. To invest in education is to invest in our future. We cannot keep short-changing our children and taking away opportunities for them to explore and learn. As more money is required for state-mandated curriculum changes and high-stakes standardized testing, it is our children that are losing. Programs are being cut all over the state as budget changes are forcing districts to cut music, art, after-school transportation, and youth-centered clubs.

But let's put money aside for a moment. What do I want? What do 'we people' want? We want to be allowed to teach. Do you know that the past two months has been spent of our time preparing and completing paperwork for the Student Growth Objectives? Assessments were created and administered to our students on material that we have not even taught yet. Can you imagine how that made us feel? The students felt like they were worthless for not having any clue how to complete the assessments. The teachers felt like horrible monsters for having to make the students endure this. How is that helping the development of a child? How will that help them see the value in their own self-worth. This futile exercise took time away from planning and preparing meaningful lessons as well as the time spent in class actually completing the assessments. The evaluations have no statistical worth and has even been recognized as such by the NJ Department of Education. I am all for evaluation of a teacher. I recognize that I should be held accountable for my job. This does not worry me, as long as I am evaluated on my methods of teaching. I can not be held wholly accountable for the learning growth of a student when I am not accountable for all of the factors that influence this growth. Are you aware that poverty is the biggest determination of a child's educational success. If not, I suggest you read Diane Ravitch's new book Reign of Error. Take a moment and become enlightened.

Getting back to the issue of money. I am fully aware of our educational budget. Where is all of this money? To me it seems like it is being siphoned right off into the hands of private companies as they reap the benefits of the charter schools and voucher programs that you have put into place. It certainly hasn't gone to improve school conditions in urban areas such as Jersey City. The conditions that these students and teachers are forced to be in are horrifying. Yet you are not allowing the funds needed to improve these conditions. Are you hoping that these schools get closed down and more students are forced to go to private charter schools while the districts are being forced to pay their tuition? I know for a fact that this is what has happened in Camden and Newark. Yet these charter schools are not held to the same accountability as our public schools. Why is that? Because deep down you know that you are not really dealing with the issues that influence a child's education. You are simply putting a temporary band-aid into place. Unfortunately that temporary fix is already starting to be exposed as Charter Schools are showing that they actually are not able to do better than public schools.

You are setting up teachers to take the blame for all of this. You have portrayed us as greedy, lazy money-draining public servants that do nothing. I invite you to come do my job for one week Governor Christie. I invite you to come see my students, see how little they really have during the school day as they are being forced to keep learning for a single snapshot of their educational worth. For that one end-all, be-all test, the NJASK. The one that the future of my job and my life is now based upon. Why do you portray schools as failure factories? What benefit do you reap from this? Have you acquired financial promises for your future campaigns as you eye the presidential nomination? Has there been back-room meetings as you agree to divert public funds to private companies that are seeking to take over our public educational system? This is my theory. To accomplish all of this, you are setting up the teachers to take the blame. Unfortunately, you are not the only governor in our country that has this agenda.

What do “we people' want, Governor Christie? We want our schools back. We want to teach. We want to be allowed to help these children to grow, educationally, socially, and emotionally. We want to be respected as we do this, not bullied.

BadAss Teacher,

Melissa Tomlinson


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