Randi Weingarten accused of another backpedal on schools: 'We know kids do better in person, but…'

Media top headlines January 4

In media news today, comedian Patton Oswalt gets mocked for a lengthy apology after taking a picture with Dave Chappelle, Howard Stern slams Oprah Winfrey for hosting dinner parties amid COVID surge, and Governor DeSantis responds to media criticism that he was missing in December.

Randi Weingarten, head of the second-largest teachers union in the country, was called out Tuesday for an apparent backpedaling on reopening schools in the COVID-19 pandemic despite claiming to be a champion of getting children back in the classroom.

“There are very real logistical decisions schools are making,” Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers president, tweeted Monday. “We know kids do better in person, but the spike is real. We need adequate staff & the safety measures in place including testing, masking ventilation. There is a lot of stress.”

WASHINGTON, DC – OCTOBER 21: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, along with members of Congress, parents and caregiving advocates hold a press conference supporting Build Back Better investments in home care, childcare, paid leave and expanded CTC payments in front of the U.S. Capitol Building on October 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for MomsRising Together)

Critics who got wind of the message said they caught Weingarten in another walk back. In May, Weingarten told CNN that the AFT “have always wanted to be back in school,” saying it put out a report in April 2020 to find a safe way to do just that.

“Randi totes wants schools open. Just not while covid exists,” Fox News contributor Karol Markowicz tweeted Tuesday.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary Christina Pushaw made an observation about the school closing trend.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks before a crowd of striking educators at Capital High School in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., February, 19 2019. REUTERS/Lexi Browning
( REUTERS/Lexi Browning)

Several others echoed the same sentiment, “Defund teachers unions” or “End teachers unions.”

Her tweet came on the heels of her announcement on CNN that she “personally” supports mandating the vaccine for school children five and older, a declaration which got the attention of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. 

“American Federation of Teachers union boss Randi Weingarten tried to keep schools closed while your kids struggled to learn,” Cruz said. “Now she is trying to get the government to FORCIBLY vaccinate your kids. Hell no! She doesn’t have your kids’ interests at heart.”

Despite her repeatedly telling critics that she had always advocated for children to resume in-person learning, Weingarten’s union was discovered to have corresponded with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) over school reopenings, offering guidance that the agency seemed to adopt word-for-word.

The CDC appeared prepared, for instance, to allow in-school instruction regardless of transmission rates. But, at the influence of the union, the guidelines were adjusted to include a provision that read, “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.”

U.S. President Joe Biden visits teacher Allison Hessemer’s pre-Kindergarten class at East End Elementary School to highlight the early childhood education proposal in his Build Back Better infrastructure agenda in North Plainfield, New Jersey, U.S. October 25, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Yet Weingarten has continued to enjoy some glowing coverage by the mainstream media. One New York Times columnist suggested she could be a hero in the fight to “save American education” in a piece published last month; the widely panned piece had its headline changed twice.

Recent data has shown a startling increase in young adults’ struggles with mental health since the start of the pandemic, which some researchers say is in part due to isolation and inconsistent schooling.

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