Randi Weingarten Wants You To Believe She Fought To Reopen Schools. She's Lying.

Last week, Randi Weingarten testified before Congress concerning her efforts to keep America’s public schools closed during COVID.  Not surprisingly, her testimony involved no contrition or accountability.  Instead, parents were treated to a show of mock ignorance and dishonesty.  This is only further evidence that Weingarten and her teachers unions are the greatest threat to America’s public education.  They don’t really care about America’s kids or, for that matter, our teachers.  They only care about their own power.

Let’s review some of Randi Weingarten’s lies:

“We spent every day from February on trying to get schools open.”

What nonsense. During COVID, when her words truly mattered, Weingarten labeled attempts to reopen schools as “reckless,” “callous,” and “cruel.”  In early 2021, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention practically had Weingarten and her union on speed dial as it issued critical guidance that kept schools closed even longer.  And there are countless examples of local union chapters stonewalling reopening efforts with prolonged, pointless negotiations: In Chicago, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) affiliate union claimed that efforts to reopen schools were “rooted in sexism, racism, and misogyny.”  The union’s efforts in Chicago were so counterproductive to getting schools reopened that outgoing Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot refuted Weingarten’s testimony, saying it was “not the reality that was happening on the ground.”  Weingarten and her union can’t have it both ways; they cannot say they advocated to open schools after having done everything they could to keep them closed.

Weingarten’s lies are even more galling when we consider the reason unions fought to keep schools closed: to improve their negotiating position and make more money.  AFT’s regional affiliates routinely used the pandemic lockdowns as a bargaining chip to increase teacher salary and, in many cases, to demand progressive wishlist items wholly unrelated to education.  For instance, among its requirements for any school reopening plan, United Teachers Los Angeles (an AFT affiliate) listed defunding the police and a millionaire tax.  It did manage to include some education-related items, though: a charter school moratorium and the elimination of standardized testing.  School lockdowns were thus treated by teachers unions as an opportunity to implement their progressive wishlist.

Weingarten also claimed during the hearing that “we know that kids learn best in person.”  Curiously, she and her unions seemed not to possess this commonsense wisdom until quite recently.  During the pandemic, Weingarten scoffed at the idea that children’s development and learning were being irreparably damaged by school lockdowns.  The Chicago Teachers Union called learning loss a “contrived notion,” while Weingarten herself claimed she didn’t believe in it, saying “kids are resilient and kids will recover.”  Kids are indeed resilient, but let’s be clear: robbing children of in-person learning at a crucial stage of development, just to negotiate better salaries and conditions for union members, is indecent and a dereliction of duty.  And there is no evidence this learning loss is in fact recoverable – post-pandemic reports have shown the largest drop in mathematics scores ever recorded.  This can’t simply be waved away with cheap excuses or feigned ignorance.

Holding AFT and its local union affiliates accountable for their actions during the pandemic is not anti-teacher, as Weingarten frequently claims, and it is the furthest thing from political.  There are so many incredible teachers all across America who only want to do the job they love, and what we should all want is to reward these excellent teachers by cultivating a system in which they can prosper.  Weingarten’s testimony is evidence enough that corrupt unions that wield their power irresponsibly are clearly standing in the way of accomplishing this.

We must therefore empower parents and promote school choice. The silver lining to Randi Weingarten shutting down schools is that parents saw firsthand the damage that teachers unions were doing to their kids.  Parents deserve to have the option of sending their child to a school not subject to the self-interested power of a corrupt union.  Providing every parent with that choice should be common sense.

I’ve called Randi Weingarten one of the most dangerous people in the world precisely because of what we saw in her testimony: She and her union hold immense influence over our children’s education; and even when faced with the high cost our kids have paid due to her actions, she offered no accountability or remorse. If we want to fix America’s broken education system, we should do everything in our power to diminish the control that individuals like Randi Weingarten hold over it.