Transcript: Diane Sawyer Interviews New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie


CHRIS CHRISTIE: What I said was time to eliminate tenure now, the tenure system we have, which doesn't allow us to be able to reward the best teachers and get rid of the incompetent ones. That forces us to do last in [having to abide by the policy of] first out, where no matter how good you are, if there are layoffs, that the youngest teachers have to go. There has to be a system that replaces that, that protects against arbitrary firing, retaliatory firing.

DIANE SAWYER: But tenure. Tenure -- isn't it in a yearly review or a five year review, isn't tenure?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: No, sure, you can have tenure protections as long as you continue to be a competent teacher in the classroom. But every year, you should be evaluated. And if you do not evaluate as effective, then you should have an opportunity to make yourself better. It doesn't mean you get fired.

DIANE SAWYER: But isn't tenure not having to prove yourself anymore because it's given?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Well, if that's what tenure is, Diane, then tenure is failing our students. Because I don't know what other profession in the world you don't have to prove yourself every day. You get on TV and prove yourself every night, and if you don't you're gone. And I'm gonna have to prove myself every day as governor or I'll be gone.

Why is it that we have one profession where it says after three years-- I mean, you can't tell me that you're not a better reporter today than you were if you'd been doing it for three years. But it's not a given. It's not a given. You could be worse. And if you are, you don't belong on the air in the same [way] that I don't belong as governor just because I won once.

I mean, that sounds like Francisco Franco to me, you know? You win once and you're there for life? I don't think so, but that's what teaching has become. After three years, you're there for life whether you're good or not. It's not a given, and you know it and I know it. And so let's stop pretending. So let's say, "Earn it." As long as you're doing a good job at the front of the classroom, you have complete protection.

But when you don't, you have an opportunity then to improve yourself. And if you don't improve yourself, you need to go. And you know why? Here's why: 'Cause I've got a daughter in the second grade. She's only got one year in the second grade. And if she has a lousy teacher at the front of that classroom, she's gonna be behind in third grade, in fourth grade, in fifth grade, in sixth grade.

DIANE SAWYER: Are you so confident it's possible through all these measures, whether it's observation or test outcomes or some other intuition, to know who is a really good teacher?


DIANE SAWYER: Are you that confident?

CHRIS CHRISTIE: Of course. I mean, let me as the question: Do-- You know, you talk to any parent who has children in a school. Within weeks, they know if they have a good teacher or a bad teacher. Within weeks. And the rumor mill in the school tells them, too. "Oh, you got Mrs. Smith for third grade, uh-oh, not good. Yeah, 'cause she's not good, you know. Stay away from her." Or, "You got Mrs. Jones. She's fabulous. You're kid's gonna have a great year."

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