by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
False claims and misstatements aren’t rare on television; but usually when “experts” get something completely wrong, it’s something so arcane that few of us recognize the error amidst the din of “Crossfire” cable cacophony: ‘The growth rate in grain exports to China last year was what? Okay, if you say so.’
Not this time. Here, the whopper so defied ordinary common sense that even a precocious middle schooler might well have called it out. And just for bonus points, it was delivered with unambiguous, assertive clarity.
On August 6, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, was a guest on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” offering up the darndest faux factoid: “Most teachers right now in America have less than two years of experience.” …
… It was an attempt to deflect criticism of the policy known as seniority, where newer teachers are the ones to be laid off during enrollment drops or recessions instead of more experienced teachers without regard to whom might be better at his/her job. ‘Let’s pretend there’s no difference in teacher quality,’ the logic goes, ‘and seniority protections should present no downside to students.’ Or, ‘Pay no attention to the teacher disparities you see with your own eyes in parent/teacher meetings.’ Or, ‘Pay no attention to the range of teacher quality you experienced yourself as a student.’ …
… Randi Weingarten was trying to say that it hardly mattered if weaker teachers with seniority were being protected from accountability since … well, there aren’t many senior teachers left anyway. Pass the smell test for you? Well, she was wrong. Not even close to being right.
In a 2011 report by the National Center for Education information titled, “Profile of Teachers in the U.S.” on page 19 they report that 74 percent of teachers have over five years experience. Meanwhile, data from the National Center for Education Statistics says that in the 2011-12 school year, only 9 percent had less than three years experience (the top data line). Or you could just think about the schools your children attend.
It’s hard to go on TV and say with a straight face that better, younger teachers should always be let go so that more senior teachers can keep their jobs, even if some of the ones protected aren’t very good. So no one exactly says that. Instead, they say there wouldn’t have to be layoffs at all if funding were never cut, even amid dropping enrollment.