WASHINGTON—AFT President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement responding to the Fordham Institute’s flawed report on teacher absenteeism:
“The question the Fordham Institute should ask is: How do we recruit, retain and support teachers for America’s schools—teachers who, the OECD has shown, are paid much less than their similarly educated peers, teach longer hours, and have less time to prepare their lessons than their international counterparts?
“Teachers, most of whom are women, face unique stressors, including caring for families and working beyond the school day. To really understand absenteeism, we need to address the root causes, not draw conclusions from raw data. Leave polices exist to ensure kids can learn in a safe and healthy environment, and they should be supported.
“The Fordham Institute’s comparison with charter schools is a snapshot that doesn’t support an apples-to-apples comparison, because definitions, data collection and responses vary widely between and within districts and schools. You can’t even compare one school district with another, let alone charter schools with other charters, or charters with school districts; you actually need to look at specific leave policies, demography and other factors such as long-term illnesses. Answering the ‘why’ question—for example, absences might be for visiting other schools or meeting family obligations—is just as important as the snapshot.
“Educators at charter schools, most without the benefit of a collectively bargained contract, are often forced to quit because they don’t have leave and vacation provisions to fall back on. The reality is that charter schools need better leave policies, not worse ones, a fact ignored by Fordham.”