A bombshell new report reveals how text messages show union bosses directly influencing a key Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statement on reopening schools during the coronavirus pandemic.
The text message exchanges obtained by the Fairfax Parents Association through a Freedom of Information Act request showed American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association President Becky Pringle had direct contact with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky as the agency was putting together its scientific analysis on reopening schools.
In the messages, Weingarten appears to express concern to Walensky about the CDC’s draft guidance for reopening schools while Pringle appears to push for “evidence gathered in more diverse settings.”
When the agency released its final statement on February 12, it had made a crucial change that allowed school districts to remain closed while still saying they were following the CDC’s guidelines. In the guidance, the CDC said all schools have the option to provide in-person instruction while emphasizing that middle and high schools should only open when they “strictly implement all mitigation strategies and have few cases.”
The two unions then lauded the statement, with Weingarten’s AFT even sending it directly to Walensky with the message, “Thank you.”
Though Americans were told from the start of the pandemic to “trust the science,” the deeper implications of the messaging between the union bosses and CDC director has raised concerns. It seems clear that their influence had a direct effect on the final guidance, with the language being adjusted in a way that appeased the unions and allowed schools to stay closed.
Notably, vice-President Kamala Harris appeared at a joint press conference with Weingarten in March, in which the education union leader said, “the science has to be respected” when it comes to determining when schools open.
Weingarten has since tried to defend her decision by falsely claiming the unions had always been in favor of reopening schools but a trail of documents paints a very different picture.
Indeed, the AFT president’s defense is in stark contrast to what her text messages showed to Walensky and the fact that she seemed to be pushing for schools to remain closed even when the CDC had presented them with stricter guidelines so that they could reopen.
Though the scientific data has now shown school closures not only being detrimental to the success of students but to their mental and physical health, the text messages demonstrate how the two powerful unions managed to shape real-time science and chart the course of the nation’s schools in their favor.