Americans didn’t elect teachers unions to the White House, but a new report indicates they’ve been making plenty of policy in President Joe Biden’s administration.
An interim report from House Republicans indicated emails between the American Federation of Teachers, the White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the union’s “cozy relationship with the Biden administration’s political leadership at the CDC positioned the union to impose line-by-line edits” to the administration’s public school reopening guidance, Fox News reported Wednesday.
The report noted that it was “past practice to keep draft guidance confidential” — but with a president who’s unusually close with organized labor in the Oval Office, things apparently have taken a turn for the worst. Unless you’re a union boss, of course.
(Here at The Western Journal, we’ve noted the corrosive effect that teachers unions have had on our students during the pandemic, particularly when it comes to reopening guidelines. We’ll continue to bring America the truth. You can help by subscribing.)
In the report from Republicans on the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, the representatives said unions enjoyed “unprecedented access to the policymaking process for guidance on re-opening schools.”
Take, for instance, an email exchange between the AFT’s senior director of health issues, Kelly Trautner, and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Feb. 11, 2021 — one day before the school reopening guidance was made public.
The two largest teachers unions in the country — the AFT and the National Education Administration — already had received a copy of the guidance. In the Feb. 11 email, Trautner suggested to Walensky that the CDC insert a line that would call for school shutdowns under certain circumstances.
“In the event high-community transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary,” it read.
Walensky forwarded the email to Dr. Henry Walke, director of the CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response. Lo and behold it showed up in the guidance.
While these emails had been made public last October, the CDC said this kind of coordination was routine.
However, Walke admitted in Feb. 18, 2022, testimony that this level of coordination was “uncommon” and that draft guidance isn’t usually shared outside the agency.
“Documents and testimony show, however, that Director Walensky downplayed the degree to which CDC departed from past practice to allow AFT to affect the policymaking process,” the interim report reads. “In fact, CDC allowed AFT to insert language into the Operational Guidance that made it more likely schools across the country would remain closed after February 2021.”
Republican Reps. James Comer of Kentucky and Steve Scalise of Louisiana said in a statement that the Biden administration had rewarded a top political donor — teachers unions — while leaving parents out to dry.
“The facts are clear: Biden’s CDC overrode routine practice to allow a radical teachers union that donated millions of dollars to Democrat campaigns to bypass scientific norms and rewrite official agency guidance,” the statement read.
“The damaging edits by union bosses effectively kept thousands of schools shuttered across the country, locking millions of children out of their classrooms,” the congressmen said. “The Biden Administration abandoned medical science and replaced it with political science to reward one of their largest donors, harming millions of children in the process. They bypassed the science to put union bosses ahead of children.
“Millions of Americans are still outraged at what these Washington Democrats put their children through, and all because union bosses demanded they keep schools closed longer.
“America’s children are suffering, academically and mentally, because of the Biden Administration enabled school closures. Republicans will not rest until we uncover all the facts and hold everyone accountable who was involved in holding back millions of children from having equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream.”
WATCH @SteveScalise on the CDC’s collusion with Teachers Unions to close schools:
“It was political science, not medical science..in fact CDC was ready to come out with guidance that would’ve been more favorable to opening schools…the Unions gave different language to the CDC” pic.twitter.com/uMWXyAVmI9
— House Republicans (@HouseGOP) April 1, 2022
For many parents, the report is likely to touch a nerve.
Despite evidence that in-person learning isn’t a significant vector of transmission, that students aren’t at significant risk from COVID-19 and that the costs of at-home learning far outweigh whatever benefits lockdowns might have, some of the nation’s biggest school districts still continue to shutter during periods of increased transmission.
Take Chicago, where hundreds of thousands of children were kept at home this January due to the city’s teachers union, which voted against in-person learning just days after students had returned from Christmas vacation.
While the district said it was safe to go in the classroom, the Chicago Teachers Union disagreed — with 73 percent voting to stay home. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said they were “politicizing the pandemic.”
“There is no basis in the data, the science or common sense for us to shut an entire system down when we can surgically do this at a school level,” Lightfoot said at the time.
“If we pause, what do we say to those parents who can’t afford to hire somebody to come in and watch their kids, who can’t ship their kids off to some other place. What do we say to those students who are already struggling?”
And it’s not that teachers unions necessarily think periods of higher COVID transmission are necessarily unsafe for them. Before spring break in 2021, a leaked social media post from the United Teachers Los Angeles Facebook group warned members to not post their photos from vacation, especially since they were maintaining it was “unsafe” to return to in-person instruction.
NEW: In a leaked post from a private Facebook group for UTLA union members only, teachers are warned not to post on social media if they go on spring break vacations because the optics would be bad for them while UTLA is refusing to return to “unsafe” in-person schooling @FOXLA pic.twitter.com/KxQc7k450T
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) March 9, 2021
“Friendly reminder: If you are planning any trips for Spring Break, please keep that off of Social Media. It is hard to argue that it is unsafe for in-person instruction, if parents and the public see vacation photos and international travel,” the post read.
The message wasn’t that it was really unsafe out there and that you shouldn’t be taking trips, period. It was just a reminder to keep up appearances and not make the union look bad.
This, of course, is at a local level. The House Republicans’ interim report is another sign this happened on a national level, too.
Yet when the CDC’s guidance was released last February, Walensky said it was “free from political meddling.”
It’d be interesting to hear her say that with a straight face now.
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