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By Erin O'Neill July 1, 2011

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney says when Gov. Chris Christie was a gubernatorial candidate, he promised “no school cuts”

Democrats and Republicans made many promises during the 2009 gubernatorial campaign, but did Chris Christie vow not to slash aid for the state’s public schools?

State Senate President Stephen Sweeney claims he did.

"The governor, who as a candidate promised no school cuts, was well aware that his draconian cuts to education were illegal," said Sweeney (D-Gloucester) in a May 24 press release following the New Jersey Supreme Court’s latest ruling on school funding. The court said the state had to send $500 million in additional funding to 31 urban school districts known as Abbott districts.

PolitiFact New Jersey questioned Sweeney’s claim about Christie.

As governor, Christie cut school funding -- he withheld $475 million in aid in 2010 and slashed $820 million in funding from the current budget.. But did he promise to maintain school funding during his campaign? We initially found some conflicting evidence, but then the governor admitted that he had made that promise.

Derek Roseman, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats, sent us to two news reports to support Sweeney’s statement: an Asbury Park Press article dated Jan. 9, 2010 that said Christie "promised not to cut state aid to local school districts" and another report from the newspaper dated Oct. 14, 2009 that reported Christie "would keep local education funding flat for the year, saving the planned $500 million increase" in state aid.  

PolitiFact New Jersey searched newspaper archives and found more contradictory reports, some saying he would cut the aid; others saying he wouldn’t.

The governor’s office did not return two requests for comment.

The conflicting evidence had the Truth-O-Meter jammed, but the governor himself made a statement that tipped its scales.

During a question and answer session on June 28, after the governor signed legislation overhauling public employee benefits, Christie responded to a question about a campaign promise not to change pensions for law enforcement officials.

"When I got here I found circumstances to be different than the governor was characterizing them when I ran. When you are a candidate, what you are restricted to is what the current occupant of the office will tell you about the circumstances surrounding the fiscal state of New Jersey. Gov. Corzine told us that fiscal year '11 was going to be a $6 to $7 billion deficit. It turned out to be $11 billion," he said. "So, I made a lot of other promises. I also said that I wouldn't cut education aid in fiscal year 2011, but when a $6 or $7 billion budget deficit turns into a $11 billion deficit and you don't have the option to print money, you got to make a lot of decisions."

Now, let’s return to Sweeney’s statement.

Sweeney said Christie promised during his campaign that he would not cut school funding.

The spokesman for the Senate Democrats provided conflicting evidence to support Sweeney’s claim and PolitiFact New Jersey found even more conflicting evidence in news reports.

However, Christie himself recently said he promised not to cut school aid while he was a candidate. We can’t argue with that.

We rate Sweeney’s statement True.

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Our Sources

The Star-Ledger, video of Gov. Chris Christie, June 28, 2011

Asbury Park Press, "Christie renews vows to ax budget," Oct. 14, 2009

Asbury Park Press, "Options few for Christie," Jan. 9, 2010

Press Release, "Sweeney Calls for Increased Aid to All Underfunded School Districts in Light of Court Decision," May, 24, 2011

Email Interview, Derek Roseman, spokesman for Assembly Democrats, May 26, 2011 and June 6, 2011

Interview, Steve Baker, New Jersey Education Association spokesman, June, 9, 2011

Press Release,  "Remarks of Governor Chris Christie to the Special session of the New Jersey Legislature Regarding the Budget for Fiscal Year 2010," Feb. 11, 2010

The Star-Ledger, "Christie reveals details to close state’s  budget gap," Oct. 10, 2009

The Star-Ledger, "Christie gives Dems post-holiday smack down," Dec. 12, 2009

The Star-Ledger, "The Christie vows: How he plans to deliver," Nov. 6, 2009

The Star-Ledger, "Christie may declare a financial emergency; Edict would gut pact on state worker layoffs," Nov. 10, 2009

The New  York Times, "Christie Pledges Fight on Taxes and Business Rules," Nov. 4, 2009

The Associated Press, "Christe says education a priority," Nov. 9, 2009

The Associated Press, "Gov.-elect Christie eyes NJ state worker givebacks," Nov. 11, 2009

Education Week, "N.J. Governor-Elect’s Education Agenda Eyed," Nov. 12, 2009

The Philadelphia Inquirer, "At N.J. school, Christie’s remarks political, personal," Nov. 10, 2009

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Erin O'Neill

New Jersey Senate President Stephen Sweeney says when Gov. Chris Christie was a gubernatorial candidate, he promised “no school cuts”

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