Democratic Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot ripped American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten, a leading voice for school closures, for refusing to help reopen schools.
Weingarten has come under fire in recent days for claiming she worked to reopen schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, though her union accused Chicago schools of being “unsafe” to reopen. The union also accused state-level politicians, notably Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, of putting millions of children’s lives at risk by reopening schools.
“Obviously, every union should advocate for its members, but it’s gotta be in the context of an organization,” Lightfoot said Monday on “CNN This Morning.”
“Schools are about children. We demonstrated over and over again that our schools were safe,” she continued. “We put $100 million into retrofitting classrooms, making sure that they had the PPE [personal protective equipment], making sure that every single classroom had filters to make sure that the air was safe. Deep cleaning of every single building. But fundamentally, we know that where children learn the best and where they are safest is in the classroom, and in-person learning, and none of our parents signed up to be homeschoolers. And the learning loss is real.”
“The union needed to work with us and they never did that,” Lightfoot said.
Weingarten testified April 26 before the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic that the union “spent every day, from February on, trying to get schools open” and that remote learning was detrimental for children. Lightfoot argued she may have believed that at the time, but did not take the steps to reopen schools in practice. (RELATED: ‘I Hear No Remorse’: CNN Contributor Goes Off On Randi Weingarten To Her Face)
“That’s not the reality that was happening on the ground in cities like Chicago, like Los Angeles and other places,” Lightfoot continued. “We needed to get our kids back in school, and I’m unapologetic about the fight to make sure that we put our kids and our parents first.”
Weingarten testified at the hearing that President Joe Biden’s transition team reached out to her union to coordinate about school openings. The union also reportedly worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to address reopening schools, which Weingarten has denied.