Newark Union Head Blames Low-income Families For Teacher Absences

Apparently poor kids spread germs to staff whose immune systems are compromised by accountability policies

Wall Street Journal education reporter Leslie Brody has a new piece out that looks at the troubling issue of chronic teacher absences in Newark Public Schools.

Screenshot from the Wall Street Journal.

According to teacher attendance data compiled by the district, nearly half of the teachers in Newark’s traditional public schools missed at least 13 days of work in the 2016-17 school year and 21% of teachers missed 20 days or more.

As a recent study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute showed, the problem of chronic teacher absenteeism isn’t unique to Newark Public Schools. However, Newark Teachers Union president John Abeigon’s excuses for those absences are certainly novel.

Newark Teachers Union president John Abeigon, a North Jersey union boss straight out of central casting.

According to Brody, here’s how Abeigon explained the district’s high rate of teacher absences:

“Newark Teachers Union President John Abeigon said poor parents who lack child care often send sick children to school and spread germs to staff. Beyond that, he blamed many absences on low morale due to the district’s pay-for-performance system and use of achievement data as part of teacher ratings. Going to work ‘shouldn’t be stressful to the point where it’s making you sick between anxiety and paranoia,’ he said.”

Wow. If Abeigon can’t even accept a tiny measure of responsibility for this problem and pledge to fix it moving forward, how can anyone expect the Newark Teachers Union to work in partnership with the district to improve the city’s schools? It certainly doesn’t bode well for the return of Newark schools to local control.

You can read Brody’s full piece at the Wall Street Journal here.


Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.


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