To Arne Duncan: ‘Check your facts’

Education Secretary Arne Duncan is probably mighty sorry he linked pink slips being given to some teachers to the sequester, not just because that connection is tenuous at best but because he got called out for it.

The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker,” Glenn Kessler, gave him four Pinocchios, which are given to stories not only with some shading of the facts (one Pinocchio), or significant omissions and/or exaggerations (two Pinocchios), or significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions (three Pinocchios), but for “whoppers.” It’s the top (or bottom, depending on how you look at it) of Fact Checker’s rating scale.

Fact Checker cites this Post story by my colleagues Lyndsey Layton and Karen Tumulty who exposed just how much Duncan was exaggerating when he said on “Face the Nation” that “there are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall.”

Fact Checker also said Duncan’s statement that “as many as 40,000 teachers could lose their jobs” appears exaggerated. Concluded the Fact Checker:

There is little debate that across-the-board spending cuts in education funding will cause pain for some schools and states. But there is no reason to hype the statistics — or to make scary pronouncements on pink slips being issued based on misinformation.

 

Indeed, Duncan’s lack of seriousness about being scrupulously factual undercuts the administration’s claim that the cuts are a serious problem.

 

Duncan made this claim not once, not twice, but three times. Let this be a teachable moment for him: Next time, before going on television, check your facts.

 

 

Valerie Strauss covers education and runs The Answer Sheet blog.
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Valerie Strauss · February 28, 2013