Newly revealed emails detailed by the New York Post highlight how the American Federation of Teachers and its boss Randi Weingarten exerted significant influence over the Biden administration and shaped the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's school reopening guidance, which halted the full reopening of in-person classes.
The damning revelations come just ahead of Weingarten's Wednesday testimony before the Congressional Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.
The CDC has characterized the apparent collusion between the teachers' union and the Biden administration as a matter of the latter merely seeking input from the former, but critics suggest the the records obtained by the conservative watchdog Americans for Public Trust expose something insidious about the influence dark money can buy and the ostensible willingness of the CDC to conform scientific guidance to political pressure.
Prioritizing Democratic allies over science
Americans for Public Trust obtained additional records concerning the communications between Weingarten and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky in the week leading up to the Feb. 12, 2021, announcement of its "Operational Strategy for K-12 Schools Through Phased Mitigation" guidance, which dashed any hopes that American children might return to in-person classes en masse, reported the New York Post.
Walensky, deemed the "most dangerous person in the world" by former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, took two calls from Weingarten ahead of the announcement: once on Feb. 7, 2021, and again one day before the guidance was issued.
The CDC, the Biden White House, and the AFT — which, under Weingarten, donated over $2.3 million to Democratic candidates during the 2022 election cycle — coordinated not only on the language of the guidance, but also on how it would be presented to the press.
According to the Post, on the day of the Feb. 7 call, then-White House associate director of public engagement William McIntee got in touch with CDC chief of staff Sherri Berger, informing her that the teachers' union had "a few comms-related questions" pertaining to a meeting between union pontiffs and Walensky the following day.
McIntee wrote in the email to Berger, "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 also indicated that the AFT and its fellow union, the National Education Association, wanted to coordinate with the CDC on a readout press release following 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," wrote McIntee.
A Feb. 11 email revealed that the CDC had followed up with Weingarten and NEA President Becky Pringle after both had spoken to Walensky in advance of the guidance's release.
Christopher Jones, an official with the CDC, wrote, "As she [Walensky] indicated, we would like to schedule time tomorrow late morning for a follow up discussion with CDC’s technical experts on our forthcoming [guidance]."
Americans for Public Trust previously released emails received from a Freedom of Information Act request, which showcased successful efforts by the teachers' unions to shape the CDC's reopening guidance, reported The Hill.
One email from the AFT to the CDC read, "We are grateful for the agency’s effort to bring some measure of organization and framework to guidance. We are likewise grateful for the inclusion of some of the mitigation efforts we have been calling for since last year."
The letter continued, saying, "It is our hope that we can be engaged early in the process moving forward, as we believe our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich thinking around what is practicable and prudent in future guidance documents."
The Post noted that the AFT successfully recommended that the CDC employ specific language in its 2021 guidelines.
For instance, the AFT suggested that the CDC make mention of providing remote work opportunities to teachers claiming to suffer higher risks of infection or to live with a high-risk "household member," as well as to advise the shuttering of schools in areas with allegedly high COVID transmission levels.
While the CDC was originally prepared to permit in-school instruction regardless of transmission rates, it ultimately caved to the union.
Sure enough, the guidance said, "Students, teachers, and staff who are at high risk of severe illness or who live with people at high risk should be provided virtual options" and called for "virtual only instruction" for middle and high school students in "high transmission" communities.
The extent of the Biden administration's desire to bend to the will of the teachers' unions was further illuminated in a Feb. 1, 2021, email from AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner to Walensky, which said, "We are immensely grateful for your genuine desire to earn our confidence and your commitment to partnership."
Concerning the correspondence, Americans for Public Trust executive director Caitlin Sutherland told the Post, "Randi Weingarten colluded with the Biden administration to put politics over science, threatening the well-being of children."
TheBlaze previously reported that the closures sought by the teachers' unions — representing the longest interruptions in schooling since formal education became the norm — have been demonstrated to have driven a significant spike not just in academic ability of American children, but also spikes in mental illness, suicide, and obesity.
Sutherland further stressed that Weingarten's "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. ... While both Walensky and Weingarten have tried to mislead the public, their emails and phone logs tell the real story."
"Congress must stand up for the American people and get answers from Weingarten at this hearing to ensure she is finally held accountable," added Sutherland.
Weingarten rejected a request to appear at a congressional hearing in December after Republican Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana wrote to her, saying, "The catastrophic effects of prolonged school closures and abandoning America's children may be the ultimate lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. ... We know that your union was granted 'uncommon' access to draft, edit, and review official government school re-opening guidance."
Weingarten, no longer able to avoid Congress, indicated in her prepared testimony that she will say, "Any claim that the contact the AFT had with the CDC was unusual or inappropriate, particularly in reviewing its February 2021 Operational Strategy, is simply wrong."
She will also say, "Help us help students recover from the effects of the pandemic — learning loss, trauma, and sadness. The unrelenting attacks on teachers over pandemic-era school closings must end as well."
Committee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) indicated the hearing will "delve into the role Ms. Weingarten and the AFT played in editing the CDC's school reopening guidance and keeping schools closed longer than necessary," reported The Hill.
Wenstrup suggested that Weingarten "may have jeopardized the well-being of our nation's children during the COVID-19 pandemic. If so, she should be held accountable."
Like Blaze News? Bypass the censors, sign up for our newsletters, and get stories like this direct to your inbox. Sign up here!