Chris Christie marks 1st day of classes at Superstorm Sandy-ravaged school

September 4, 2013 2:37:32 PM PDT
Republican Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday helped reopen one of the last remaining schools closed by Superstorm Sandy on Long Beach Island, where he also panned his Democratic opponent's education plan as "ridiculous."

The governor was at Beach Haven School as classes resumed for kindergarten through sixth-grade students displaced after October's mega-storm.

The 100-year-old brick school was among scores of educational facilities up and down the state damaged by the storm. All but one, also on Long Beach Island, have reopened after repairs were made with federal disaster aid money.

Christie said damages to schools topped $40 million. Schools from Bergen County to the Jersey shore were torn apart by the storm, the worst ever to hit the state.

Later, during a press conference in front of the school, Christie refused to acknowledge the substance of Sen. Barbara Buono's plan because, he says, she has no way to pay for it. Buono, who is challenging Christie's re-election bid, trails by about 20 percentage points in public opinion polls.

He claimed the plan, which would fund full-day kindergarten and expand access to preschools, would add at least $3 billion to the state budget compared with an estimated $650 million that would be raised by reinstating a surcharge on millionaires. During a Republican primary debate in the 2009 gubernatorial campaign, Christie dismissed universal preschool as state-funded baby-sitting, a position he would not address at Wednesday's event.

"Her plan is ridiculous," he said. "Responding to the substance of it is folly because the substance doesn't matter because she has no way of paying for it. " Buono unveiled a comprehensive education plan Tuesday that would intensify early education opportunities, particularly for poor children, and improve colleges and universities to help keep students from leaving New Jersey for college.

Christie on Tuesday was in Newark to announce an $86 million investment in labs and classroom space at New Jersey Institute of Technology. The money comes from a higher education bond referendum voters approved in November and is the first large-scale investment in capital improvements at colleges and universities in 25 years.