Gov. Chris Christie delivered a State of the State message for the final time on Tuesday afternoon, speaking for nearly two hours about accomplishments during his two terms that he said left the state “much better than it was eight years ago.”
Christie, who will leave office next Tuesday to make way for incoming Gov. Phil Murphy, touted achievements in the areas of schools, transportation, the economy, the condition of Atlantic City, the problem of opioid addiction, post-Hurricane Sandy recovery and more.
One item on his list was the public schools in Camden. Prior to his tenure, he said, the Camden schools included four of the five worst-performing schools in New Jersey. After working with the community to select a new superintendent, closing underperforming schools, opening new charter schools and Renaissance schools, Christie said the city’s schools have seen “astonishing” improvement. He said the graduation rate rose from 49 percent to 70 percent; the dropout rate fell from 21 percent to 12 percent; and the dropout rate for African-American student was cut in half.
Also on the education front, Christie cited improvements to the state’s higher education system, particularly to Rowan University and other South Jersey institutions. Among the changes during Christie’s tenure, more than $1.3 billion in public money was invested in capital improvements to the state’s colleges and universities.
“Nothing is more consequential to our state’s economic future than educational opportunity,” he said.
Christie called the state’s pension system a “sword of Damocles that hangs over the head of every New Jerseyan.” He cautioned the incoming administration that the pension system “dominates any hope of building on the success of the last eight years.”
Sprinkled throughout Christie’s address were expressions of appreciation to elected officials, members of the Legislature, officers of his Cabinet, family members and others. He concluded by sharing his thanks with the people of the state.
“I leave you today grateful, happy and a better man than I was when I walked in here for the first time eight years ago. For that and so much more, I thank you,” Christie said. “Most of all, I thank the wonderful people of the great state of New Jersey. I came to this job eight years ago proud to be one of you. I leave it next week even prouder to be one of you.”