Louis DeBroux / May 5, 2021

Teachers Union Strong-Arms CDC to Keep Schools Closed

The American Federation of Teachers certainly doesn’t have kids’ best interests in mind.

Former American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Al Shanker was once asked if he was concerned about the impact that a series of walkouts by his unionized teachers was having on schoolchildren. He infamously replied he “would start representing kids when they started paying union dues.”

Today, AFT President Randi Weingarten, head of the nation’s second-largest teachers union, is just as apathetic toward America’s struggling schoolchildren. Yet she masquerades her apathy behind a façade of concern for teacher health, using the political power that comes with having donated $20 million to Democrats in 2020 alone to successfully pressure the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), with the complicity of Joe Biden’s White House, to alter a CDC recommendation on school reopenings just days before it was released.

“First of all, that’s false,” insisted Press Secretary Jen Psaki, because “it’s actually long-standing best practice for the CDC to engage with organizations and groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency.”

Is that really what happened?

In early February, the CDC was set to announce its recommendation that all schools reopen regardless of community spread of COVID-19. All available data showed children are at extremely low risk for contracting the virus and at even lower risk for transmitting it, along with generally avoiding severe cases.

However, according to emails between CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, her top advisers, Biden White House officials, and senior AFT union leaders — which were only exposed as a result of a FOIA request by watchdog group Americans for Public Trust — we now know there was a “full-court press” by the AFT to pressure the CDC to recommend keeping thousands of middle and high schools closed.

This “flurry of activity” came just days before a CDC article was published in the highly respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) concluding that schools could reopen safely with minimal safety precautions, like social distancing.

In a February 1 email to the CDC, Kelly Trautner, AFT senior director for health issues, wrote, “Thank you again for Friday’s rich discussion about forthcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to the suggestions made by our president, Randi Weingarten, and the AFT. … We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some initial feedback to several staff this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document.”

In these email exchanges, the AFT pressured the CDC to include exemptions from in-person work for teachers and staff, and even family members of teachers and staff, who were arguably more susceptible to the virus.

It’s bad enough that union leaders pressured a supposedly science-based agency to modify its guidelines and recommendations to accommodate the union agenda, but it’s atrocious that the CDC adopted some of the union’s recommended language nearly verbatim, not once, but twice.

In later emails, Trautner thanked CDC Director Walensky for her “genuine desire to earn our confidence and your commitment to partnership.”

If, as Biden claims, Democrats and the CDC are “following the science,” then why is the CDC taking direction from an explicitly political organization on science-based matters?

Maybe because AFT has donated more than $100 million to political campaigns since 1990, with 99.74% going to Democrats. Democrats, in turn, this year gave $213 billion in additional funding to union-controlled schools, with no requirement that they reopen.

That’s a 2,130-to-1 return on investment for the unions!

Walensky laughably claimed the CDC guidelines are “free from political meddling,” but later admitted that was a lie.

Again, it is critical to stress that the science doesn’t support school closures, and Democrats and their union bedfellows know it. In leftist-run countries like Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands, schools reopened last year after just a short time closed, with no major (or even minor) COVID-19 outbreaks.

Continued school closures in America have nothing to do with teacher safety, or even student safety, but are about union power and control of education. Unions have secured vast new funding while affording many teachers the ability to work at home.

In the meantime, these lockdowns are taking a devastating toll on our children. Suicide rates among youth have climbed as children suffer the psychological effects of pandemic fearmongering and are forced to wear masks, social distance, and hear those they should be able to trust claim they and their family are just one careless handshake away from death.

That’s not to mention the stress they suffer watching parents lose their jobs and their life savings, turn to drugs or alcohol, and deal with depression. Some children are suffering from child abuse, but fewer cases are detected because these children are stuck at home with their abusers.

As of this week, less than half of America’s schools are back to full in-person learning, but it is poor, minority school districts, controlled by Democrats, where the situation is worst. By the end of February, between 54% and 69% of minority children were still engaged in remote learning. These schools are already plagued by extremely poor academic performance.

Wouldn’t that be considered evidence of “systemic racism,” committed by Democrats themselves?

The selfishness of the teachers unions, and the complicity of the Democrats, could harm America’s schoolchildren for the rest of their lives, resulting in long-term emotional problems, social anxiety, and a drastic reduction in lifetime earnings.

Our children deserve better than to be held hostage by union leaders and Democrat politicians.

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