EDUCATION

Teacher Who Challenged Christie at Town Hall Seeks Assembly Seat

Democratic candidate Marie Corfield who will challenge Republican incumbent Donna Simon in the 16th district come November sat down with Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor to talk about her candidacy and her entry into politics.

In 2010, Marie Corfield found herself in the national spotlight when her confrontation with Gov. Christie, captured on YouTube, went viral. Corfield, an elementary school teacher in the Flemington-Raritan schools, challenged the governor at one of his town hall meetings over cuts to education funding and his attacks against the teachers union.

“I was angry because the rhetoric that he was using at that point was simply not true and it still isn’t true,” said Corfield. “We have one of the best education systems in the country and the cuts that were being made to our education system were devastating to our profession, our schools, our students and the way he was describing educators was as if we we were bullies walking around with baseball bats waiting to attack somebody.”

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The governor claims to have increased school aid for the second year in a row by $199 million but Corfield said the amount is hardly enough to offset the $1 billion in cuts he made in 2012. “When he says he’s increased aid, it still hasn’t got us back to the levels we were at before those cuts. So schools are still hurting.”

Entering politics was not in Corfield’s plans when she caught the red hot glare of the media in 2010.

“The national media came calling — The New York Times, The Ed Schultz Show, Politics Nation, the various news outlets,” she recalled. And the Democratic party from Hunterdon County came calling as well, asking her to run for legislative office. “I took a long time to think about it and I finally said ‘yes,'” said Corfield.

She came close in her first attempt when she ran for Assembly last year and lost by a narrow margin. She said her message in the 2011 race and her win in this year’s June primary touched a nerve with voters.

“The issues that I talk about have resonated with a lot of people in the 16th district because they are the issues that we are struggling with — jobs and the economy, education, taxes.”

Asked about the recent teacher tenure reforms that were signed into law, Corfield said changes were overdue. But many people have a misconception about what tenure means, said Corfield. “A lot of people [think] that tenure is just a job for life — you work three years and a day and you’re secure. And that’s just not what it is. Tenure is a due process,” she explained.

Another change that the teaching profession is keeping a close eye on is teacher evaluation. Many in the profession fear that the process will weigh heavily on test scores.

“Teachers are very concerned about that because to base half or more of their performance on a test that’s given once a year that every child has to take regardless of their abilities or disabilities is not really the best way to evaluate a year’s worth of a teacher’s job,” Corfield argued

As Election Day nears, Corfield said she will continue to knock on doors and meet and talk with as many people as she can.

“A lot of people when I knock on their doors, they’re happy to see me, they’re happy I’m out running again and it’s a nice feeling.”