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Wisconsin teacher of the year calls out Walker over comments

SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press writer

A former Wisconsin teacher of the year criticized likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Scott Walker in an open letter this week, saying he’s misrepresenting the facts when telling an anecdote about a laid-off teacher.

The Republican Wisconsin governor recently defended his telling of the story, which he’s repeated many times and wrote about in his 2013 book, saying he’s been “very clear” in how he’s described what happened to the teacher.

Claudia Klein Felske posted recently on Marquette University’s College of Education blog that she was “surprised” and “bewildered” to hear Walker tell Iowa conservatives last month the story of how the 2010 teacher of the year had lost her job.

Felske was the 2010 high school teacher of the year, one of four teachers given the prestigious award by the state superintendent and recognized at a Capitol ceremony, and was not laid off.

Walker has frequently told the story of how “outstanding teacher of the year” Megan Sampson lost her job in 2010. The governor cites it as an example of what he called a broken system that he fixed by effectively ending collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers.

Sampson actually won the Nancy Hoefs Memorial Award, given by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English for first-year language arts teachers. And while she was laid off in June 2010 from a job in Milwaukee, she was hired by another nearby district for a job that following fall.

Walker wrote about Sampson in his 2013 book “Unintimidated” and clearly identified her as “the outstanding first-year teacher by the Wisconsin Council of Teachers of English.” But during a conservative summit last month in Iowa that attracted other potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates he described Sampson as “the outstanding teacher of the year in my state.”

That comment spurred Felske’s letter to Walker.

Walker, in a recent conference call with reporters in London where he was on a trade mission, called controversy over how he describes the award Sampson won a “petty distinction.”

“It’s very clear I’ve talked about this many times,” Walker said.

Felske wrote to Walker that he should not have blamed the seniority system under union contracts for Sampson’s layoff and that instead he “should have done some serious soul searching” over the impact of funding cuts he supported for public K-12 schools, technical colleges and the University of Wisconsin System in 2011 had in leading to Samson’s layoff.

Sampson’s layoff, however, preceded Walker’s election as governor.

Walker said those complaining over the teacher of the year distinction are “trying to redirect where the facts are.”

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