Christie’s ‘Pants on Fire’ and other Fact Checks from the State of the State


While Governor Chris Christie said positive things about teachers, but stayed silent about higher education in Tuesday’s State of the State address, PolitiFact and AFTNJ identified several snippets of harmful hyperbole from the Governor that earn him a “Pants on Fire” rating. AFTNJ President Donna M. Chiera addressed Governor Christie’s education reform agenda from her classroom experience and seat on the teacher evaluation and effectiveness task force.“It is unfortunate that Governor Christie continues to repeat misstatements about the Newark Public Schools that denigrate the students and teachers there,” said Chiera. “Since PolitiFact gave the Governor a ‘Pants on Fire’ rating for undercounting by more than half the percentage of Newark students who graduate from high school back in December, you would think he would stop using this misleading figure.”The claim has been debunked twice but Christie continues to repeat the erroneous statistic, according to PolitiFact, editorializing, “Consistently repeating a proven falsehood isn’t just wrong, governor, it’s ridiculous. Pants on Fire!”

The use of misleading statistics can only detract from a meaningful dialog about school reform, which is a genuine interest of committed educators, according to Chiera. She points out that even the state is not ready to truly start “measuring teacher effectiveness, both with professional observation, and objective, quantifiable measures of student achievement” since the two-year pilot study is on teacher evaluations is in its first year.

“The state has no evaluation system in place so legislation to reduce seniority protections and weaken tenure protections is premature at best,” said Chiera. “We also need to see teachers at the table with any discussion of reform so that classroom practitioners—not politicians—are driving real reform that will benefit students.”

While Governor Christie touts research to back his efforts to weaken teachers’ voice in guiding their profession, AFT national President Randi Weingarten called for are more global outlook. “Top-performing countries like Finland and Singapore place a high priority on recruiting and retaining talented teachers, investing in teacher preparation and continuous improvement, and respecting teachers’ input,” according to Weingarten.

Chiera also noted that Christie’s speech made no mention of his much-publicized task force created to propose merging higher education institutions and called for stakeholder and public input into the planning process.

Fact Checks

Pants on Fire
Pants on Fire

Says “kids who start in the ninth grade in the city of Newark this past September, 23 percent of them will graduate in four years.”

– Chris Christie on Thursday, December 29th, 2011 in a radio interview

Chris Christie repeats misleading statistic on Newark’s high school graduation rate.

Half True
Half True

Says “we’ve accomplished balancing two budgets without raising taxes. We’ve now created 60,000 new private-sector jobs. We’ve made government smaller.”

-Chris Christie on Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 in a video

Chris Christie touts accomplishments in video previewing State of the State address.

For more, see
Chris Christie dredges up old claims in annual speech