News and Commentary

White House Defends CDC Consulting Teachers Union Over School Reopening Guidelines
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki speaks during the daily press briefing at the White House on May 4, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Nicholas Kamm / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

On Tuesday, the White House answered reports that a top teachers union played a part in the structuring of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) coronavirus guidelines for the reopening of schools.

“It’s actually longstanding best practice for the CDC to engage with organizations, groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement, as reported by The Hill. “It doesn’t mean they are taking everything they want, or even a percentage of what they want.” 

“But it’s important to understand the implementation components,” Psaki continued. “They do so to ensure that recommendations are feasible and that they adequately address the safety and well-being of the individuals the guidance is aimed to protect. So, the CDC engaged with around 50 stakeholders that are on the front lines in this pandemic and have requisite perspective for the guidance.”

The Daily Wire reported that the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), led by Randi Weingarten, appears to have lobbied the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep schools shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic and “even suggested language for the federal agency’s school-reopening guidance released in February,” according to a Saturday report from the New York Post, based on emails between the AFT and CDC.

“The powerful teachers union’s full-court press preceded the federal agency putting the brakes on a full re-opening of in-person classrooms, emails between top CDC, AFT, and White House officials show,” the Post reported Saturday. 

“The emails were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the conservative watchdog group Americans for Public Trust and provided to The Post,” the outlet noted. “The documents show a flurry of activity between CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisors, and union officials — with Biden brass being looped in at the White House — in the days before the highly-anticipated Feb. 12 announcement on school-reopening guidelines.” 

The CDC later admitted that “science” was not the sole driving factor in establishing its school reopening guidelines and that officials coordinated with “outside groups” to make its recommendations on the subject, per a report from The Daily Wire. 

Now, the Post notes that those “outside groups” included the nation’s second-largest teachers union, which seems to have prevented the CDC from using the language it wanted: “that schools could provide in-person instruction regardless of community spread.”

The AFT reportedly demanded that the CDC not make a blanket statement on reopening schools or include language demanding accommodations for teachers “who have documented high-risk conditions or who are at increased risk for … COVID-19.”

“What seems strange to me here is there would be this very intimate back and forth including phone calls where this political group gets to help formulate scientific guidance for our major public health organization in the United States,” one medical expert told the Post. “This is not how science-based guidelines should work or be put together.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten pushed back against the reports in a series of tweets over the weekend, saying that the outlet did not fully publish her quote and misattributed it. 

Weingarten said, “We stand by the feedback we gave the CDC. They are good common sense measures like accommodating those who are at high risk- and that’s why the CDC agreed to them. I’m never going to apologize for advocating for teachers, for school staff, for our students & for our communities.”

The Daily Wire reported that both the union and the CDC defended working together on the guidelines.

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The Daily Wire   >  Read   >  White House Defends CDC Consulting Teachers Union Over School Reopening Guidelines