Oops: NYT Column Blames Walker for Teacher Layoffs From Before He Took Office

Guy Benson
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Posted: Feb 16, 2015 2:05 PM
Oops: NYT Column Blames Walker for Teacher Layoffs From Before He Took Office

When I say "oops," it's in reference to the factual error, not a concession that the mistake was necessarily accidental. Via John McCormack of the Weekly Standard, here's how liberal New York Times columnist Gail Collins tries to assail the Wisconsin Governor in a piece ironically called, 'Scott Walker Needs an Eraser:'

The Speech was about waging war on public employee unions, particularly the ones for teachers. “In 2010, there was a young woman named Megan Sampson who was honored as the outstanding teacher of the year in my state. And not long after she got that distinction, she was laid off by her school district,” said Walker, lacing into teacher contracts that require layoffs be done by seniority. All of that came as a distinct surprise to Claudia Felske, a member of the faculty at East Troy High School who actually was named a Wisconsin Teacher of the Year in 2010. In a phone interview, Felske said she still remembers when she got the news at a “surprise pep assembly at my school.” As well as the fact that those layoffs happened because Walker cut state aid to education [emphasis added]. Actually, Wisconsin names four teachers of the year, none of which has ever been Megan Sampson, who won an award for first-year English teachers given by a nonprofit group.

McCormack goes to work on a fact-check, addressing "semantics quibbles" and a yawning crack in the column's thesis:

There are two problems in this section of Collins's column: First, she accuses Walker of dishonesty, but she's just quibbling over semantics. Is it really inaccurate to describe someone named an "outstanding first-year teacher" by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English as a "teacher of the year" for short? I've never seen much of a difference: In the headline of this 2011 piece, I described Sampson as a "teacher of the year," but in the body of the piece I precisely described her award. Walker has been telling this story for four years, and no one thought his description of Sampson was dishonest until Gail Collins heard about it. But the big error in Collins's piece is her claim that "those layoffs happened because Walker cut state aid to education." As you can see in the excerpt above, Collins is talking about teacher layoffs that occurred in 2010. Walker did not become governor until 2011.

That's a glaring mistake.  As we've noted, Walker's reforms have worked, saving teachers' jobs and injecting fairness into rules governing mandatory union duestenure and merit pay.  After two days, the Times finally issued a correction:

Correction: February 15, 2015 An earlier version of this column incorrectly stated that teacher layoffs in Milwaukee in 2010 happened because Gov. Scott Walker “cut state aid to education.” The layoffs were made by the city’s school system because of a budget shortfall, before Mr. Walker took office in 2011.

So Collins' entire premise is dead, they might as well have added. Weak, amateurish work from the so-called paper of record.  The media has been predictably blitzing potential Republican presidential candidates in recent days, trying to dig up old dirt, just as they did against several contenders in 2012.  The Boston Globe explored whether Jeb Bush was a bully in high school, various outlets breathlessly reported that Ted Cruz had smoked pot in his youth, and the Washington Post investigated Scott Walker's decision to leave college and take a job decades ago.  The establishment press has been far less dogged in demanding Barack Obama's never-released college records, haven't they?  Check out David Axelrod's very awkward answer to Hugh Hewitt's question on that subject last week:

HH: David Axelrod, a couple of quick questions. Why didn’t you guys ever release the President’s transcripts from Harvard Law School and Columbia and Occidental?

DA: You know, honestly, [pauses] I’ve got to [pauses] I’m not fundamentally focused on that. It’s not something that I wrote about. And I’m not sure how relevant it is.

The audio sounds even more painful than the transcript reads. The press also didn't seem especially excited about examining Obama's deliberately-misrepresented relationship with unreformed, unrepentant terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn -- with whom the president apparently partied this past summer.  The happy reunion occurred at a wedding that was crawling with journalists, yet we didn't hear about it until Gawker finally spilled the beans months later.  Maybe that extraordinary encounter doesn't rise to the level of "newsworthiness" that, say, Jeb Bush's prep school exploits do.  Plus, who can be bothered with a sitting president's past when there's a bridge scandal to cover, and a follow-on red hot scoop  to blow?

Over the last few days, news outlets have reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey has launched yet another federal criminal investigation into Governor Chris Christie and his administration...Turns out the story is more nuanced than the headlines might have you believe. Yes, a person has been questioned in connection with this allegation about the Christie administration. Does that mean there is a new federal criminal investigation? Not necessarily. Here’s what the U.S. Attorney’s office in New Jersey told us today: “Any characterization that we are investigating the Governor about this is just not true…"

Another "oops." Color me shocked.