After a tour of a Columbia Heights charter school Monday with Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he believes Jeff Johnson can unseat Democratic incumbent Mark Dayton.
Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association, said he supported Johnson's plan for education reform, which includes giving schools more local control over the hiring and firing of educators and also giving parents the option to pull their children from underperforming schools.
"I'm here because I think Jeff can win this race," Christie told reporters and eighth graders from Global Academy who attended the news conference.
Christie touted charter schools as an example of reform that serves the needs of parents who want more choices when looking at education options for their children.
Christie toured Global Academy, a public charter school that resides in a Columbia Heights strip mall, along with GOP U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden and Johnson.
The state's DFL Party criticized the visit by Christie, saying that the New Jersey governor cut more than $1 billion in state aid to education. "Next month voters will reject Johnson's backward policies and re-elect Mark Dayton," said Ellen Perrault, a DFL spokeswoman.
Global Academy opened in 2008 and currently has 430 students enrolled in kindergarten through eighth grade. When it opened, nearly 90% of students, many of whom are immigrants, were classified as English-language learners, according to school officials. That figure is now down to 46%.
The Republicans toured three classrooms -- a first-grade class, third grade and took questions from eighth graders. Asked whether he's considering running for president, Christie told an eighth-grader he was mulling a run and would make a decision early next year.
Photo: N.J. Gov. Chris Christie and Republicans for Minnesota governor and U.S. Senate visit a Columbia Heights charter school Monday. Ricardo Lopez/Star Tribune