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American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten is facing backlash after claiming her union has been trying to reopen schools for in-person learning since April 2020, a month after the coronavirus pandemic began.
“We tried to reopen schools safely since April 2020…” Weingarten wrote in response to an anonymous Twitter user.
“It makes me sick that the same people who are responsible for severely long and short-term harming kids by unnecessarily keeping them in isolation for almost 1.5 years are responsible for ‘reopening’ and ‘recovery,’” the anonymous Twitter user wrote Tuesday.
Weingarten faced swift criticism for her claim. Florida State Board of Education member Ryan Petty pointed out that Weingarten warned against reopening on April 28, 2020.
“Re-opening this soon will bring an even more powerful second wave of #COVID19. We have to be sure we are re-opening safely and not rushing things,” Weingarten wrote on Twitter that day.
“Where did you call for reopening schools? Surely there must be a tweet or two? As of 4/28/20, [here] is what you were saying,” Petty wrote on Twitter Thursday.
A spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers pushed back against the criticism.
“[T]he AFT released its reopening plan in April, 2020. It was one of the first groups to do so,” AFT spokesman Andrew Crook told Fox News in an email, pointing out that the group issued its first “road map” to reopening schools in April 2020.
“This is a lie. No one did more to ensure schools remained closed for over a year than you. This is why parents need much more control and choice when it comes to their child’s education. They’ll have it when I’m governor,” Republican New York governor candidate Rob Astorino wrote on Twitter.
“Speaking as an attorney who went to federal court to open California’s schools last summer, you were the biggest single obstacle to educating America’s children in school — not Gavin Newsom, not [Dr. Anthony] Fauci — not even COVID,” Center for American Liberty founder Harmeet K. Dhillon wrote on Twitter.
“They opposed opening plans that proved safe, even after they proved safe,” author Tim Carney wrote on Twitter.
“This is a total rewrite of what actually happened. School districts under Randi’s thumb stayed closed. School districts not under Randi’s influence opened. This is not a coincidence,” columnist Karol Markowicz wrote on Twitter.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s most powerful teachers unions, came under fire in May after a report that the union influenced CDC guidelines on school reopenings.
Communications obtained by the New York Post through a Freedom of Information Act request by conservative group Americans for Public Trust showed numerous emails between top CDC officials and the union just days before the administration released school reopening guidelines in February. The lobbying efforts were a reported success, as the Post found at least two instances when “suggestions” were used nearly word-for-word within the CDC’s guidelines.
The CDC had been prepared to allow in-school instruction regardless of transmission rates. But at the suggestion of the union, the guidelines were adjusted to include a provision that said, “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”
The union further requested that teachers be granted remote work access for those “who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk.” Similar provisions were included for “staff who have a household member” that is considered high risk to the virus.
Weingarten hit back against the New York Post.
“Once again the NY Post has a hit piece out on AFT – this time that is trying to make everyday advocacy look nefarious,” Weingarten wrote on Twitter.
“Our job is to advocate for our members, students [and] communities. And in this pandemic we have fought for safety [and] resources 24/7. This article describes basic advocacy. It’s not mysterious or clandestine. It’s routine. And this CDC wants feedback from stakeholders including teachers,” she continued.
This post has been updated with comment from the American Federation of Teachers.
Fox News’ Kelly Laco and Caitlin McFall contributed to this report.
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