The president of the second-largest teachers union in the United States got slammed for recently saying that teachers are "tired and exhausted," despite being at home for months. American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten also said that "we have to find a way to repair and nourish" teachers, which was lampooned by online commenters.
Weingarten appeared on MSNBC Friday night, where she attempted to persuade viewers that the AFT wants to reopen schools, despite having yet to commit to in-person learning in the fall.
"Number one we want schools to reopen for a rapport and we don't want outbreaks," Weingarten said. "We want schools open and we want them to stay open."
But Weingarten said that teachers "don't want to be the mask police," adding that Texas and Iowa made a politically motivated decision to "rush to say no mask mandates when we still don't have a vaccine that's okay for elementary school students."
"Well there's two plans: one is for the summer and one is for the fall," the union boss of 1.7 million members said. "In the fall we have to first and foremost create a safe and welcoming environment."
Weingarten attempted to garner sympathy for teachers.
"Teachers are tired; they are exhausted," she said. "We have to find a way to repair and nourish them as well as families in terms of attracting and retaing our teaching force."
Online commenters mocked Weingarten's comments about teachers being "exhausted."
- "Let's try this, Randi. STUDENTS are tired; they are exhausted. They've been put on the back burner by teachers unions for over a year so a virus could be used for political power gains. And MONEY. And pushing CRT so they can be told their skin color is all that matters.Shameful."
- "From what? Sitting our your asses on Zoom? People have had it with your no work, whining nonsense."
- "Why do public school teachers think they're so special? Parents and students not exhausted and tired too. medical workers and grocery store workers need to be nourished and repaired too. You. Aren't. Special."
- "Poor teachers. Where I live in Oregon they got vaccinated before 80+ months ago, and many are still not back at school. My kids are getting 2 hours twice a week in person. When it was Zoom it was 2 hours 4 days a week. They must be so exhausted. I hope the teachers are ok."
- "Having a whole year off must be exhausting!"
- "Straight talk: Schools should not have closed this year. What was always clear is now *crystal* clear. Accountability for the high costs of closures to children is beyond-fair."
- "If you don't actively scorn teacher's unions by this point, you're not paying attention."
Weingarten, who has a reported salary of around $500,000, has recently been attempting to change the perception that she is a proponent of reopening schools thanks to the help of Democratic figures, including first lady Jill Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
On May 18, Weingarten appeared on C-SPAN, where frustrated parents grilled the AFT boss for refusing to reopen schools.
One upset parent astutely asked Weingarten, "How come the parochial schools and the private schools could navigate their way through this scenario, but the public schools didn't seem to be able to manage that?"
Weingarten's answer via Reason:
So this is part of the reason why we asked the last administration to collect data on all of these things. So there were many many many public schools that have been open in a hybrid manner or in a full-time manner since September. And there have been many private schools, and many parochial schools [open]. And there have been many private and parochial schools that were not open. But we don't have the data, we have the anecdotal data. Fifteen percent, for example—a piece of data that I just got a couple of weeks ago—fifteen percent of parochial and private schools have closed fully during this period of time.
Many of the private schools that I know when I started asking them the questions about how are they doing this because we have to learn from each other, they said that they got the PPP loans that was in one of the first COVID packages so that they could do the testing that I just talked about, and they could do the layers of mitigation. And they also had parents, in a couple of the private schools, they had parents who shelled out a lot more money to do that. And the parochial schools, we saw some extra space that got used in those kind of ways.
And frankly, some of us also, you know, said that every one of the schools, you know, who were serving poor people had to get additional funding, and I got criticized by my, you know, public education friends for doing that. This is a matter of we have to learn from each other. But at the end of the day, if you have a ventilation system that doesn't work, if you don't have soap and water in your schools, if you can't get soap and water, and you need to have, you know, you need to wash kids, everyone needs to wash their hands, perhaps sanitizing stations, all of those things were resource-based things that were really important.
Earlier this month, Weingarten implied that Fox News and former President Donald Trump were at fault as to why schools are not reopened now.
Weingarten's AFT has been scrutinized for its cozy relationship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Damning emails between AFT officials and the CDC suggest that the teachers union successfully lobbied the CDC on the health agency's reopening guidance and language.
AFT donated nearly $20 million to Democrats in 2020, according to watchdog The Center Square.