Saturday, September 18, 2021

Biden’s teacher layoff number is likely false


In a virtual roundtable with frontline workers on November 18, President-elect Joe Biden said that “666,000 teachers have been laid off already since March.” The number includes more than laid-off teachers, but we cannot determine the exact number.

Joe Biden – Caricature (DonkeyHotey/Flickr Creative Commons)

I admit it: Unsupported claims of election fraud from President Donald Trump and his legal team have dominated my newsfeed lately, but the C-SPAN video shows Mr Biden did make the claim quoted.

Public data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which tracks employment trends in the US, shows that the number of “All employees, local government education, seasonally adjusted” drops from 8.042 million in February to 7.3768 million in October, a decrease of a little more than 665,000. Voxitatis reported the trend in September when Newsweek noticed it and again in October, when we related the trend to major events in the history of education.

Our reports were more or less an attempt to understand why so many people were leaving the education field. We knew some were quitting on their own, some were being laid off, and some were retiring without being replaced by new workers.

But a natural reduction in the number of education workers in total, which is just a few hundred less than Mr Biden’s number and within rounding error, given the magnitude of the effect, isn’t the same thing as the number of teachers laid off due to the pandemic. That’s likely to be a much smaller number than Mr Biden’s estimate.

I attribute the error to the president-elect’s assumption that everybody who the Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies as a “local government education” employee is a teacher. That’s just not true, and the bureau’s numbers include bus drivers, principals, librarians, counselors, school nurses, and other paraprofessionals. The number also does not distinguish between the number of people laid off and those who left the profession on their own.

PolitiFact, which checks the validity of assertions made by politicians, regardless of party, has also classified this statement as “mostly false.”

Although it is possible that the entire 665,200 number represents teachers who have been laid off, it is highly unlikely.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.


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