Chris Christie Wants Fewer Rock-Climbing Walls, More iPads in Education

PHOTO:Chris Christie speaks with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America, Dec. 2, 2015. PlayABC News
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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is warning of an “epidemic” popping up on college campuses around the country: rock-climbing walls.

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“There is an epidemic of rock-climbing walls breaking out in college campuses all over America,” the Republican presidential candidate told voters at a campaign stop in Jefferson, Iowa recently, using the warning as a comical jumping-off point to discuss his proposals to tackle the challenges of student debt and rising tuition costs.

Christie sees rock-climbing walls as one example of superfluous spending by universities that drives up the price tag on college education. He contends that colleges should be required to itemize and unbundle tuition bills, so that students and parents have greater insight and control over where and how their money is being spent.

“You put market forces on it,” Christie said Friday, comparing colleges to restaurants that provide customers with a cost breakdown for each individual item on their bill.

“If 98 percent of the people say I am not paying for a rock-climbing wall, adios rock-climbing wall,” he added.

Christie’s call to reform how the nation’s universities run their finances is his latest proposal in an extended history of education reform. In New Jersey, Christie’s statewide reform efforts have put him at odds with teachers’ unions, which he has railed against over pensions and health care benefits, among other issues.

Making a joke at his own expense, the heavy-set governor noted that one journalist has already mocked his anti-rock-climbing wall stance as an assault on student fitness.

“Some wise guy in the press wrote after I gave this talk, ‘Christie assault on college fitness,’” Christie said. “Now, listen, look at me, I have assaulted fitness in many ways; that’s definitely not one of them.”

Though Christie may want fewer recreational rock-climbing walls on college campuses, he also wants every child in America to have an iPad, advocating for the computer tablets as a technologically effective and economically viable alternative to textbooks.

“My kids are carrying, I don’t know how heavy they are, they feel like 50, 60 pound backpacks everyday with these big old clunky books, many of them outdated,” Christie said during the same campaign stop in Iowa.

“Why doesn’t every kid in America have an iPad where you can download off the Internet the most recent copies of these notebooks and carry one thing to school every day, with a notebook and some pens and pencils?” he continued.

“We’re spending a fortune on these books many of these dated and these kids learn differently than we did.”

Christie’s call for replacing textbooks with iPads is just one element of Christie’s broader prescriptions to overhaul primary and college-preparatory education.

An opponent the Common Core State Standards Initiative, which he explains was implemented and failed in his state, Christie says curriculum decisions should be made at the school board and state level and that funding be distributed in block grants by states to districts.

He also proposes nationwide reforms to teacher unions. He specifically advocates for reforming tenure and salary to make it easier to fire underperforming teachers and reward high-performing ones.