Gail Collins, in NY Times Op-ed: Scott Walker Cut Teachers' Jobs in 2010 — Before He Was Even Governor

February 14th, 2015 11:47 PM

What an ironic title New York Times op-ed columnist and former editorial page editor Gail Collins used — "Scott Walker Needs an Eraser" — in her February 13 opinion piece blasting Wisconsin's Republican governor.

In her nitpicky, selective mind, Walker must already have an eraser, one that's so powerful that it could reach back to the year before he became Badger State chief executive and eliminate teachers' jobs (bolds are mine throughout this post):

... (Walker's January Iowa) 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.

Uh, Gail ... hello? Scott Walker didn't take the gubernatorial oath of office until January 2011.

As to the teacher of the year controversy, the Weekly Standard's John McCormack revealed the details:

... 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.

Sure, Walker should clean up this element of his presentation. But if we're going to start dealing with genuine deceptions, Walker's inaccuracy is completely inconsequential, and certainly nothing compared to President Barack Obama's serially delivered and completely false "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan" statement used in selling the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare.

The White House knew the statement was a lie every one of the dozens of times Obama uttered it. Collins's colleagues at the Times devoted extraordinary energy towards excusing one of the most consequential lies in modern U.S. history. When the egregious nature of Obama's lie became obvious during the rollout in late 2013, two Times reporters chose to characterize it as merely an "incorrect promise."

Here's more from the Weekly Standard's McCormack about an important fundamental truth:

The truth is that Walker's reforms actually saved teachers' jobs. Right before the 2012 Wisconsin recall election, Walker's Democratic opponent Tom Barrett couldn't name a single school that had been hurt by Walker's policies. When Walker's 2014 Democratic opponent Mary Burke was asked to name any schools hurt by Walker's collective bargaining reform, she relayed an anecdote she'd heard secondhand about one school. Burke's story didn't check out, and the superintendent of that school wrote a letter telling Burke she didn't know what she was talking about.

That's a good reminder for Gail Collins (and the rest of us): Always check your facts.

Here's another fact. Walker's budget reform bill, particularly its health insurance cost-sharing, not only saved teachers' jobs. A press release about a year into the Act 10 reforms touted a survey showing that it increased their number:

According to a survey by the Wisconsin Association of School District Administrators released by DPI:

  • New teacher hires outnumber layoffs and non-renewals by 1,799 positions
  • The three districts with the most teacher layoffs (Milwaukee, Kenosha, and Janesville) didn’t adopt the reforms put in place by Governor Walker. Those districts account for 68% of teacher layoffs for the entire state, but only contain 12.8% of Wisconsin students.
  • 75% of districts have the same K-3 class sizes or are decreasing them
  • 67% of districts have the same 4-6 grade class sizes or are decreasing them
  • 78% of districts are keeping student fees the same or decreasing them
  • 92% of districts are keeping sports programs the same or expanding them

As to Collins, she and the Old Gray Lady appear to be too consumed with utter rage that a Republican governor who has been extraordinarily successful in a purple state, and who successfully turned back a recall effort, is now a legitimate presidential contender. With such people and at such institutions, facts simply don't matter.

Cross-posted at