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3,000 teacher layoffs? The unfactual factoid that just won’t die

Post by Peter Callaghan / The News Tribune on Oct. 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
October 4, 2010 4:36 pm

Now it’s the advocates for a high-earner income tax that are using the number that has been refuted by just about everyone who has looked at it.

In the state voters’ guide, the Yes on 1098 committee, led by Bill Gates, II, argues that the new tax would raise badly needed money for education and social services.

Education and health care have been slashed — 3,000 teachers were laid off, 40,000 people lost basic health. With the wealthy paying their fair share, 1098 will net $1 billion annually dedicated to funding K-12, college tuition, the Basic Health Plan and long-term care for seniors.

I looked into the 3,000-layoffs number in mid-August and found it to be untrue. Rather than be a number about actual layoffs, the 3,000 jobs was the number that could be funded with the state’s share of the federal edujobs bill.

The state agency that compiles data on teacher layoffs said that only 445 state teachers received layoff notices last spring. Most districts had already reported that most had been recalled to work before the school year began. That has led many districts to say they will bank the edujobs money _ about $200 million statewide _ until next year. That is when further state budget cuts are possible and when the federal stimulus money aimed at public education ends.

Maybe initiative sponsors don’t see the New Tribune. But the Seattle Times followed with a similar analysis two weeks later that reached the same conclusion.

While Murray and Democrats have stopped using the 3,000 layoffs number, word apparently hasn’t filtered down to those running the income tax campaign.

Sandeep Kaushik, spokesman for the Yes on 1098 campaign, had this to say:

“The voter guide statement was actually submitted in early August, prior to the TNT and Times questioning the number. Since the number was called into question, we checked and believe the accurate number would be that due to state budget cuts, Washington has between 2,100 and 3,684 fewer state-funded K-12 educators (that includes both layoffs and open positions that have gone unfilled for school personnel – not all teachers – in the 2009-11 biennium). Meanwhile, student enrollment has increased by more than 6,700 students.”

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