The Washington Post

Teacher pink slips claim by Duncan not backed by evidence

The descriptions of the post-sequester landscape that have been coming out of the Obama Administration have been alarming, specific--and, in at least some cases, hyped.

“There are literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices that they can’t come back this fall,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

When he was pressed in a White House briefing Wednesday to come up with an example, Duncan named a single county in West Virginia and acknowledged, “whether it’s all sequester-related, I don’t know.”

And, as it turns out, it isn’t.

Officials in Kanawha County, West Virginia say that the “transfer notices” sent to at least 104 educators had more to do with a separate matter that involves a change in the way West Virginia allocates federal dollars designated for poor children.

The transfer notices are required by state law and give teachers a warning that they may be moved to a different position next school year. They don’t necessarily mean a teacher has been laid off, said Pam Padon, director of federal programs and Title 1 for the Kanawha County public schools. “It’s not like we’re cutting people’s jobs at this point.”

She said those 104 notices will ultimately result in the elimination of about five to six teaching jobs, which were likely to be cut regardless of the sequester.

“The major impact is not so much sequestration,” she said. “Those five or six jobs would already be gone regardless of sequestration.”

In addition, the county notified all of its Head Start teachers that they may be out of a job, not because of sequestration, but because the Obama administration had recently labeled the Kanawha County program “deficient”, a designation that requires it to compete for funding instead of getting an automatic renewal.

The county is assuming that it will not operate a Head Start program next year, one county official said, who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to talk about the program.

Discuss this topic and other political issues in the politics discussion forums.

Karen Tumulty is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where she received the 2013 Toner Prize for Excellence in Political Reporting.


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