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Press Release Published: Apr 27, 2023

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten Testifies to Uncommon Influence Over CDC School Reopening Guidance

Considering information presented at the hearing, the Select Subcommittee’s investigation must go on. The Select Subcommittee has outstanding requests for transcribed interviews and expects ongoing cooperation from Ms. Weingarten and AFT.

WASHINGTON — The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic held a hearing titled “The Consequences of School Closures, Part 2: The President of the American Federation of Teachers, Ms. Randi Weingarten” to delve into any role Ms. Weingarten and the AFT may have played in influencing the CDC’s COVID-19 school reopening guidance and keeping schools closed longer than necessary. Select Subcommittee members inquired about the process for editing CDC guidance, asked Ms. Weingarten about AFT’s scientific understanding of COVID-19, and pressed for further testimony from union officials. Ms. Weingarten confirmed that the CDC accepted two recommendations from her organization and conceded that political activism is an essential part of AFT’s mission. The Select Subcommittee will use Ms. Weingarten’s testimony to further their investigation into prolonged school closures and work to ensure children never again suffer from these unscientific policy decisions.

Key Takeaways:

The CDC provided uncommon access to the American Federation of Teachers and accepted two recommendations that significantly altered its school reopening guidance.

AFT repeatedly pushed to include language in CDC’s guidance that included a “trigger” which would automatically shut down schools and keep them closed longer than necessary.

  • “Specifically, the AFT proposed that a closure threshold—a “trigger”—be added to provide an objective standard for determining when a school should be closed based on positive test cases,” AFT counsel noted in a pre-hearing letter to the Select Subcommittee. This was confirmed by documents and e-mails provided to the Select Subcommittee by AFT.

Political activism is a key part of AFT’s mission. The CDC providing special access to an organization that is primarily driven by politics and not science to influence its scientific guidance is highly concerning and deserves further investigation.

Considering children were unlikely to contribute to the spread of COVID-19 or suffer severe illness, AFT’s recommendations to the CDC were unwarranted and detrimental to America’s youth.

  • “Even before COVID-19, we knew that kids learn best in person, and that remote, hybrid and simultaneous instruction are not adequate substitutes. Being in school is essential to children’s academic, social and emotional well-being. We know this not as a matter for study or the grist for a congressional investigation. We know this because we live it every day,” AFT President Randi Weingarten testified.

A further investigation into the influence that political organizations, like the AFT, had on the CDC’s “scientific” guidance is needed to ensure accountability for American students and families. The Select Subcommittee’s outstanding request for an in-person, transcribed interview with Ms. Weingarten and AFT staff remains a priority.

Member Highlights:

Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) pressed Ms. Weingarten to reveal that the CDC accepted two recommendations from AFT that prioritized keeping teachers out of the classroom and prolonged school closures.

Chairman Wenstrup: “So, again, yes or no, did AFT ever provide suggested revisions to the CDC’s Operational Strategy regarding school closures or reopenings? Did you suggest revisions to their Operational Strategy?”

Ms. Weingarten: “What we suggested, sir, was ideas.”

Chairman Wenstrup: “I want to get to the point, I guess. We know two of the proposed changes. Work from home options for teachers with high-risk conditions, and that if a new variant arose, that the guidance may need to be changed. So, with that and again, yes or no, were these proposals accepted by the CDC?”

Ms. Weingarten: “…the second proposal was not made on January 29th…the first proposal about at-risk, immunocompromised workers, and not that simply that they would work at home, but there would be accommodations for people who were at risk, that proposal was accepted.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) blasted American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten for ignoring scientific evidence proving children rarely transmitted COVID-19 and comprised less than 0.01% of hospitalizations.

Rep. Miller-Meeks: “You roundabout say that the American Federation of Teachers has scientific expertise and is therefore well-positioned to opine on science-based school guidance. So, on your science based expertise, can you tell me that were you aware of publications by the American Journal of Pediatrics in the summer of 2020 that indicated that children had very little to no transmission of COVID 19…among 1.8 million children in this age group, do you know how many died from COVID?”

Ms. Weingarten: “I don’t know how many died. I don’t have that number in my head.”

Rep. Miller-Meeks: “Zero.”

Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Ny.) asked whether the American Federation of Teachers’ political contributions to Democratic candidates provided them with access to the CDC which allowed them to influence their school reopening guidance.

Rep. Malliotakis: “It’s no secret that your union, your local affiliates, spent $20 million on political donations with nearly all of the funds going to Democrats and liberal groups in the 2022 cycle as the debate about reopening schools raged. And I think it is a question that we have of whether you had this type of access because of those contributions. We don’t see the parents being asked their opinions or the private schools being asked their opinions on school reopenings. In fact, I know my principals’ union also was supporting schools to reopen after a reasonable period of time, but after lobbying for and securing $122 billion in the American Rescue Plan to safely reopen schools after another after $60 billion had already been allocated through the CARES Act, the AFT still continued to push for schools to be closed.”

Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) revealed that American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten has a direct line to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky.

Rep. Lesko: “I have one last question in the 14 seconds I have left. I’m a member of Congress that sits on two committees that deal with the CDC. I don’t have a direct number to Director Walensky. Do you?”

Ms. Weingarten: “I do not talk to representatives of the government…”

Rep. Lesko: “Do you have a direct number to Director Walensky?”

Ms. Weingarten: “Do I have Director Walensky’s direct number? Yes, I have Director Walensky’s direct number.”

Rep. Lesko: “Well, hopefully, she’ll give it to me too.”

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) claimed that the Biden Administration and the CDC are to blame for prioritizing the special interests of their political allies over the education of America’s children.

Rep. Ronny Jackson: “Since the science, the actual science, never supported closing schools, we must examine why and who was behind these detrimental efforts to promote school closures without any scientific support for doing so. We now know that you and your organization, it’s been documented at this point, edited the draft of this “scientific based” guidance on school reopening from the CDC. The document that was used to keep most public schools all around the country closed.

“I don’t think you are to blame. I think the Biden White House and the CDC are the ones that really failed our country. The Biden White House and the CDC should have completely disregarded any suggestions from your politically motivated and corrupt organization, in my mind. But I guess considering your organization gave millions and millions of dollars to Democrat candidates, into their liberal campaign committees, you and your organization got anything you wanted from the Biden administration. That seems to be how it works. This is what corruption in the federal government looks like. The American people have seen it and they don’t like it.”