New Jersey's Christie says he is Obama ally on education

PRINCETON, New Jersey Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:23pm EDT

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie toasts with his table mates as President Barack Obama plays host to a dinner for the National Governor's Association at the White House in Washington February 27, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie toasts with his table mates as President Barack Obama plays host to a dinner for the National Governor's Association at the White House in Washington February 27, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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PRINCETON, New Jersey (Reuters) - New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie on Wednesday declared himself an ally of President Obama and his administration on education issues.

Speaking at the governor's mansion, known as Drumthwacket, after private talks with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Christie said he and Duncan "have a lot in common ... in the education reform agenda."

"He has been a great ally to try to reform education for kids across America," Christie said.

Christie, who is considered a rising star in the Republican Party, praised Duncan as an "extraordinary leader on this issue."

He also said, regarding Obama and the education agenda, "I consider myself an ally of his."

Duncan concurred that he shared with Christie a sense of urgency on the education issues, saying "we have to get better for our country."

He praised reform efforts currently under way in Illinois, where he said the state government and unions were working together on a reform agenda.

In New Jersey, by contrast, Christie and the New Jersey Education Association have been firing away at each other on Christie's proposed education reforms, particularly on the issue of tenure.

In a recent statement, Barbara Keshishian, president of the association, said, "Unfortunately, most of his proposals represent a top-down, corporate carrot-and-stick approach that has no basis in reality in the public schools."

Christie, a fiscal conservative often mentioned as a potential contender for the White House, has said he aimed to restore "hope" to New Jersey students, borrowing the tagline of Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

(Editing by Chris Michaud and Greg McCune)

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