The academic year cycle is one that I have never gotten completely used to even after 11 years of doing it as a professor (and way too many years of doing it as a student!) Just as things are gearing up suddenly it is time for exams, papers, presentations, and grading. I've done all that now, and my students have gotten their grades. I taught one of my favorite classes this spring - Survey Research. Students in this class do the "book learning" on survey work, but they also actually do a survey. But not a political one. Instead they do survey work on behalf of community organizations. The class is a lot of work for them, and great fun for me.
In any case, as things wind down for the summer in the academic world (though I stay just as busy given my various research projects) politics in Trenton continues to heat up. The latest polling from Fairleigh Dickinson shows Governor Christie's support improving from where we found it two months ago after his budget speech. At the same time, his favorite whipping organization, the NJEA seems to be losing its battle. Why? Well, even though Christie comes across to many as bullying at times, voters may be happy to see some leadership - ANY leadership - coming from politicians in this day and age. And like his positions or not, Christie IS leading. I think voters are giving him credit for that, and for his willingness to take on entrenched interests. And the NJEA has done itself no favors with its approach. In a difficult economic environment, the union leadership has seemed strangely out of touch.
When we polled in late March, voters did not want to see school and teacher cuts. But then came the school budget elections and the NJEA battles. Now it appears things are different. While we are not polling right now (and won't over the early summer) I bet if we did we'd see much more support for Christie's position and less support for teachers compared to where we were right after the budget speech. The FDU poll certainly suggests this is the case.
So what's next? The legislature needs to produce a budget by the end of June, and it seems likely that the budget will be a lot more like what Christie wants than what the Democrats want. Partly this is because he can just veto whatever he doesn't like and throw it back to the legislature. But also partly because while he may seem to be blustering and bullying to some, Governor Christie's approach right now is resonating more with voters than might have been expected. This pretty much gives him the upper hand. Unless, of course, something changes in the next few weeks. But it isn't clear what that something might be.