The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) released a report this month denying responsibility for school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, despite repeatedly opposing their reopening.
AFT’s report, titled, “In Search of Scapegoats: The GOP’s Failed Scheme to Blame the American Federation of Teachers for School Closures During the Pandemic,” attributes the perception that it helped keep schools closed to a “smear” campaign by Republicans. AFT and its president Randi Weingarten often opposed reopening schools and influenced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its school reopening guidance. (RELATED: Senate Dems Bring In Randi Weingarten To … Talk About AI?)
AFT asserts that the CDC and the teachers union do not bear responsibility for school closures because they lack the ability to enforce laws and just provided “suggestions for the guidelines.”
“The CDC’s guidelines were advisory, not compulsory,” the report asserts. “Therefore, to blame the CDC guidelines for the length and extent of school closures and their tragic consequences was both wrong and disingenuous. Even more wrong and disingenuous was the attempt to blame the AFT—particularly in light of its limited role in making suggestions for the guidelines—instead of the true decisionmakers from March 2020 to January 2021, namely President Trump and Secretary DeVos.”
“The Trump Administration had failed to provide useful school opening-related guidance during the early stages of the pandemic, sowing confusion and uncertainty,” it adds.
We’ve always advocated for safe reopening of schools. Our role in @CDCgov guidance was one of many voices. Let’s focus on #RealSolutionsForKids and Communities, not cynical politics. https://t.co/j5M56owz6D
— Randi Weingarten 🇺🇦🇺🇸💪🏿👩🎓 (@rweingarten) October 18, 2023
Trump’s push to reopen public schools was “reckless and wrong,” Weingarten wrote in July 2020. She suggested that all teachers should work remotely if remote work demands were unmet in December 2020, according to Education Week.
“Then, what a union starts doing [is saying], ‘Since you’re not negotiating this, maybe the default position is for all of us to be remote,’” Weingarten stated.
AFT has faced criticism for working to block the return of in-person learning. Weingarten collaborated with the CDC to draft guidance on safely reopening schools and pushed to include reasons to close again.
Weingarten advocated to include a “trigger to automatically close schools,” former CDC Director Rochelle Walensky testified.
AFT’s report targeted Republican lawmakers, asserting they falsely created the impression that the teachers union played a substantial role in school closures.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic engaged in a “two-year-long media campaign to smear the AFT and Ms. Weingarten and place the blame of pandemic-related school closures and learning losses on teachers, school personnel, and their unions,” AFT’s report states.
Weingarten angrily watched DeVos advocate for schools to fully reopen by fall 2020, she told the Guardian.
“It’s as if Trump and DeVos want to create chaos and want to jeopardize reopening,” Weingarten stated. “There’s no other reason why they would be this reckless, this callous, this cruel.”
Weingarten also asserted schools could not get back to normal until there was a vaccine for COVID-19 in July 2020, according to The New York Post.
“There’s no way that you’re going to have full-time schools for all the kids and all the teachers the way we used to have it,” she told John Catsimatidis on his AM 770 WABC radio show, according to the Post. “Once we have a vaccine, I hope we can get back to that.”
Former Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot particularly attributed her city’s schools not reopening to the teachers union.
“The union needed to work with us and they never did that,” Lightfoot stated.
President Joe Biden’s transition team reached out to AFT prior to his presidency to coordinate school reopenings, Weingarten testified in April to the subcommittee.
AFT did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
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