It is not an exaggeration or mischaracterization to say that teachers’ unions were the driving force behind pandemic school closures.
Local union affiliates in Los Angeles, Chicago, Texas, and New York — just to name a few — quite literally refused to return to in-person learning despite government efforts to reopen classrooms. And at the federal level, the American Federation of Teachers lobbied public health officials against encouraging school reopenings, successfully convincing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to water down its reopening guidance.
As a result of the unions’ efforts, children were shut out of classrooms for months, and in some parts of the country, years. In Chicago, for example, many teachers did not return to in-person learning until January 2022.
The chief architect behind these efforts was Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, who would very much like you to forget her role in prolonging school closures.
Weingarten insisted during a congressional hearing on Wednesday that she had been advocating school reopenings as early as 2020, telling lawmakers, “We wanted to be in school; I’ve said that over and over again today.”
But, of course, there was a catch, as Weingarten admitted: “Teachers wanted to be in school; they knew that in-school learning was important, but they needed it to be safe. … We needed both teachers to be safe and kids to be safe.”
And that’s why Weingarten pushed for highly restrictive and usually impossible reopening requirements, such as low community transmission, quarantine guidelines, and obnoxious testing regimens. The effect of this was to keep schools closed for much longer. That’s also why she directly urged CDC Director Rochelle Walensky not to endorse a full-blown return to in-person learning, but to instead advise that reopening guidelines were subject to change.
She did all of this, knowing there wasn’t one lick of scientific data to back it up.
As early as the summer of 2020, it had become clear that schools were not super-spreaders and children were not at risk of serious COVID-19 infection. For example, one scientific analysis published in October 2020, looked at “almost 200,000 kids in 47 states from the last two weeks of September” and found “an infection rate of 0.13% among students and 0.24% among staff. That’s about 1.3 infections over two weeks in a school of 1,000 kids, or 2.2 infections over two weeks in a group of 1,000 staff. Even in high-risk areas of the country, the student rates were well under half a percent.”
Instead of taking an honest look at studies such as this one, Weingarten chose to contribute to the baseless fearmongering that debilitated our country for nearly two years. None suffered more than children, who lost years’ worth of social interaction and academic development they might never get back.
Weingarten would have you believe she cares about these students and their losses, but her actions during the pandemic prove otherwise. And despite her shameless efforts at gaslighting the public, families won’t soon forget what her union cost them.