Documents: Teachers’ Union Played Significant Role in CDC’s Halting of Full School Reopening

The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its president Randi Weingarten had significant input into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) pandemic school reopening guidelines than was known in 2021, according to documents obtained by Americans for Public Trust (APT).

The independent watchdog organization that, according to its website, “works to restore trust in government by exposing corruption and holding the powerful accountable,” reportedly discovered in emails and records shared with The New York Post that Weingarten “spoke twice by phone with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in the week leading up to the Feb. 12, 2021, announcement that halted full re-opening of in-person classes — including the day before the guidance was released,” The Post said.

“Randi Weingarten colluded with the Biden administration to put politics over science, threatening the wellbeing of children,” APT Executive Director Caitlin Sutherland told The Post. “Her multiple calls, emails, and non-scientific recommendations to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky and her team illustrate the level of dark money influence that was allowed to shape school reopening policies.”

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teachers’ union, joined with the AFT to request help from the White House and the CDC for creating a public relations tactic that would impress upon the media that the Biden administration and the teachers’ unions were unified in their message, The Post’s report noted.

The revelation Tuesday of the documents showing the heavy involvement of the unions in the CDC’s February 2021 guidelines for school reopenings comes as Weingarten faces the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Wednesday afternoon.

The documents uncovered indicate Walensky accepted a call from Weingarten on February 7, 2021, five days before the release of the guidelines titled “Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools Through Phased Mitigation.”

Also on February 7, 2021, then-White House Associate Director of Public Engagement William McIntee sent an email to then-CDC Chief of Staff Sherri Berger, to inform her the AFT and NEA had “a few comms-related questions” about a meeting scheduled for the next day between union members and Walensky.

“They’d like to tweet ahead of the meeting to say something to the gist of ‘The CDC has invited a group of AFT/NEA teachers to meet with the Director on safe school reopening this Monday. What information would you like our members to relay to the CDC Director in the meeting?’” McIntee said in the email, according to The Post.

McIntee added another request:

They’d like to coordinate on a readout press release after the meeting. They are battling stories being written that unions and the Administration are locking heads over the safe school reopening plan, so they think it would be helpful for there to be a positive readout of the meeting from both sides afterwards.

Finally, McIntee said the unions requested that they be permitted “to either tweet during or after about the meeting.”

On February 11, 2021, the uncovered emails reveal the CDC “following up with Weingarten and NEA President Becky Pringle after each had phone calls with Walensky the night before the guidance came out,” The Post reported.

CDC official Christopher Jones then indicated Walensky would like to have “a follow-up discussion with CDC’s technical experts on our forthcoming [guidance].”

In March 2022, House Republican leaders discovered the CDC used “political science” and not “medical science” to collaborate with the AFT to create guidance on the issue of reopening the nation’s public schools.

Then-House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) referred to a report released by Republicans on a coronavirus subcommittee that revealed a CDC official’s testimony confirming the nation’s top health agency coordinated with teachers’ unions at an “unprecedented” level to craft school reopening guidance, despite the CDC’s earlier claims that its coordination with the unions was routine.

“While both Walensky and Weingarten have tried to mislead the public, their emails and phone logs tell the real story,” APT’s Sutherland told The Post. “Congress must stand up for the American people and get answers from Weingarten at this hearing to ensure she is finally held accountable.”

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Susan Berry, PhD is national education editor at The Star News Network. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Ready for Students” by Phil Roeder CC2.0.


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