Striking new tone, Chris Christie says education reform is led by GOP

Last year,  Christie called Obama's secretary of education, Arne Duncan, a "great ally," and said he backs Obama's education priorities. In March, he said on MSNBC that Obama "deserves credit" for advancing education reforms. The Obama administration hasn't supported voucher programs, but has pressured states to increase the number of charter schools and to reform their teacher tenure and evaluation systems through the national Race to the Top program.

The teacher evaluation reforms in particular have irked the national teachers unions at times, but the National Education Association has nonetheless endorsed Obama for 2012.

Christie, meanwhile, has been locked in a bitter battle with his state's teachers union. In his speech, he called the union's leaders bullies and said they "beat on their enemies ... who happen to speak out on behalf of children." The union says Christie's voucher program would siphon money away from public schools.

During his speech, Christie rattled off education statistics from his state, including the dismal graduation rates in Camden, Newark and other cities. But he also told several personal stories, including how his financially struggling parents borrowed money to buy a house in Livingston so Christie wouldn't have attend school in Newark. He closed the speech by saying that he wants everyone to have the opportunity to feel the joy he felt when his eldest son got into college in December. He described seeing his wife, Mary Pat, washing dishes at home after hearing the news. "I came up behind her and I grabbed her by the waist from behind and I whispered 'We made it,'" he said. "It was a wonderful evening for the two of us."

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