Read our latest op-ed in Fox News:
Teachers know just as well as parents that nothing can replace the benefits of in-person learning. Yet, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), our nation’s ultra-powerful teachers union, used its outsized political influence to make eleventh-hour changes to CDC guidance that kept students isolated during the COVID-19 school lockdowns.
On Wednesday, AFT President Randi Weingarten has a lot to answer for when she testifies before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Because of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request submitted by Americans for Public Trust, we revealed that in February 2021 Weingarten and her union were not only given an advanced copy of the long-awaited school reopening guidance but were also allowed to make line-by-line edits.
Weingarten will likely try to dodge these facts during her testimony. The fact that she hired a defense attorney has raised eyebrows and suggests she is geared up to evade these credible arguments, but the AFT’s email correspondence made public through our FOIA tells the real story.
The truth is that Weingarten’s AFT dictated CDC policy. Back and forth emails between the AFT and the CDC show the union had a highly inappropriate level of coziness. AFT thanked the supposedly science-based agency “so much for [their] responsiveness to the suggestions made by Randi [Weingarten],” and were a self-described “thought partner” in the shaping of the guidance.
Suggestions offered by Weingarten’s union were adopted nearly verbatim into the final text of the CDC document. Email correspondence further verifies that CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the AFT’s suggestions were being worked into the school guidance “with just a few small tweaks.”
Dr. Walensky even had the audacity to claim the guidance was “free from political meddling.” But when you allow a union with no medical credentials to write school reopening guidance, that is the textbook description of an outside, dark money group influencing public policy.
Parents were granted just one 30-minute session with Dr. Walensky, while teachers‘ unions had constant and unfettered access, with Weingarten and Walensky even speaking on the phone just days before the guidance was finalized. We may never know what was said on that call, or how much additional pressure was put on the CDC by the AFT, but Weingarten should certainly be asked by committee members the extent to which she successfully influenced policy.
While parents should still be infuriated with the level of access unions were granted, sadly none of this should come as a shock. Teachers unions spent over $40 million to help elect President Biden and liberal candidates in 2020. Well, they got their money’s worth. In a triumph of politics over science, they strongarmed the CDC directly, and American children were needlessly forced to suffer the lasting consequences of remote education.
There is no doubt that an entire generation of students were harmed by the AFT’s crusade against in-person learning. Students lost 35 percent of a standard school year’s worth of learning when they stopped in-person attendance during the pandemic. Even worse, school closures had a detrimental effect on children from the poorest 20 percent of neighborhoods in America and exacerbated education inequality across the nation.