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AFT chief Randi Weingarten blames local NEA union affiliates for keeping schools closed

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Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, the country’s largest teachers union, suggested that the push to keep kids out of in-person classroom instruction for months during the pandemic was not her idea but instead came at the behest of the local National Education Association chapters.

According to a screengrab of a text message exchange involving Weingarten, she said that could not “influence” local NEA chapters on the issue.

“From what I am reading, it seems to me, you believe unions have no part in prolonged closures of schools? And in fact, you helped open them? Why do you think the public sees it otherwise,” says a text message posted by Corey DeAngelis, Cato Institute senior fellow and the national research director for the American Federation for Children, which advocates for school choice.

“Because it was a campaign the gop [GOP] did to deflect blame from [then-President Trump] and [then-Education Secretary Betsy DeVos],” Weingarten responded. “It was intentional. And there were some locals that were not good on this… And there were a lot of people who were scared.

“And I can’t influence NEA locals… Just look at corey DeAngelis twitter- every day they attack me,” she added.

But in an April 2020 tweet, Weingarten pushed back on early efforts to get schools reopened.

“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,” she wrote.

In July 2020, Weingarten declared that her organization would support teacher’s strikes if schools reopened in the fall of that year without coronavirus safety measures pushed by her organization.

“We will fight on all fronts for the safety of our students and their educators,” Weingarten said. “But if authorities don’t protect the safety and health of those we represent and those we serve, as our executive council voted last week, nothing is off the table.”

And in August of this year, reports noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consulted with Weingarten and the AFT to draft guidelines for potentially keeping schools closed again ahead of the current academic year.

Weingarten’s most recent suggestion, in the text, that local NEA chapters were more responsible for school closures than she or her organization were drew plenty of mocking responses online.

Jon Dougherty

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