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By James B. Nelson February 17, 2015

Columnist Gail Collins blames Gov. Scott Walker for teacher's lost job

Gov. Scott Walker brought the story of Megan Sampson, the first-year teacher who in 2010 lost her job in the Milwaukee Public Schools, back into the news.

Now it’s Walker critics who are keeping it there.

In a Jan. 24, 2015 appearance at an early 2016 presidential event in Iowa, Walker told the audience Sampson -- the "outstanding teacher of the year in my state" -- lost her job because of seniority provisions in the school district’s contract with the teachers’ union.

(We rated that claim Half True: Sampson was laid off under the provisions of the contract, but her award was for first-year English teachers in the district, not all teachers.)

In a Feb. 15, 2015 column titled "Scott Walker needs an eraser", Gail Collins of the New York Times cited the story in criticizing Walker’s education policies.

One problem: The calendar.

In the piece, Collins noted Walker’s mistake in calling Sampson teacher of the year and wrote:

"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."

The last part caught our attention -- and that of others as well.

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In short, Walker’s policies had nothing to do with Sampson’s layoff in 2010. At the time, he was in the midst of his successful campaign, but did not take office until January 2011.

Rather, MPS laid off a total of 482 teachers in June 2010 in response to a severe budget shortfall, in part tied to declining enrollment.

Collins didn’t respond to an email, but the Times posted a correction Feb. 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," the correction said.

Our rating

Collins said Gov. Scott Walker’s policies were to blame for Milwaukee Public Schools teacher Megan Sampson being laid off. But Sampson lost her job in June 2010, six months before Walker took office.

We rate the claim False.


More on Scott Walker

For profiles and stories on Scott Walker and 2016 presidential politics, go to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Scott Walker page.

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Columnist Gail Collins blames Gov. Scott Walker for teacher's lost job

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