Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the nation’s most powerful teachers unions, will testify Wednesday afternoon before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic to address her union’s role in influencing public policy on school lockdowns.
In her prepared testimony, Weingarten will call on lawmakers to “think bigger than the faulty premise of this inquiry,” which is the claim that AFT inappropriately coordinated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2021 to make last-minute changes to school reopening guidance.
“With a strategy focused on opening schools, it was completely fitting and proper for the CDC, which specializes in science, not education, to consult with education groups. The CDC conferred with more than 50 organizations about the guidance, according to Dr. Walensky,” Weingarten’s says in her prepared remarks.
“Any claim that the contact the AFT had with the CDC was unusual or inappropriate, particularly in reviewing its February 2021 Operational Strategy, is simply wrong,” she says. “We are asking you to help us help students recover from the effects of the pandemic—learning loss, trauma and sadness. The unrelenting attacks on teachers over pandemic-era school closings must end as well.
Weingarten and teachers unions as a whole have been targeted by critics for having had a hand in keeping schools closed throughout the pandemic. Infamously, the AFT and the National Education Association (NEA) were discovered to have corresponded with the CDC in 2021 to make last-minute changes to school reopening guidance, which included a phased reopening approach for K-12 schools based on coronavirus cases in the area.
Communications obtained by the New York Post through a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Americans for Public Trust showed numerous emails between top CDC officials and the AFT just days before the Biden administration released the school reopening guidelines in February 2021. The lobbying efforts were a reported success, as the Post found at least two instances when “suggestions” were used nearly word-for-word within the CDC’s guidelines.
The CDC had been prepared to allow in-school instruction regardless of transmission rates, but at the suggestion of the union, the guidelines were adjusted to include a provision that said, “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”
The union further requested that teachers be granted remote work access for those “who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk.” Similar provisions were included for “staff who have a household member” that is considered high risk to the virus.
Emails reviewed by Fox News Digital showed that the AFT and the NEA also received a copy of the guidance before the CDC released it to the public.
Responding to the backlash over the correspondence, Weingarten suggested it was routine procedure.
“This is normal rulemaking, frankly,” she told C-SPAN in May 2021. “This is what every administration used to do. The problem with the last administration is that they didn’t do it.”
Weingarten campaigned for Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe, who suffered a devastating election to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin after Youngkin made education and parental rights the central tenet of his campaign. Since then, she has been trying to rebrand herself as a champion for keeping schools open, but her past comments show that was not the case.
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