AFT President Randi Weingarten Defends Science-Based, Expert-Approved Pandemic Response

This week, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten appeared before the U.S. House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic at the behest of Republican members. Weingarten was asked to testify on the impact of school closures during the height of the global pandemic that has, to date, killed 6.9 million people worldwide. 

Despite AFT frequently advocating for the safe reopening of public schools — with the implementation of mitigation and testing protocols — House Republicans on the subcommittee accused Weingarten of intentionally pushing to keep schools closed.

Weingarten agreed to testify before the subcommittee to set the record straight and end the scapegoating of educators and their union

In her testimony, Weingarten detailed the great lengths AFT went to in order to respond immediately to the COVID-19 pandemic and help kids and communities in need. In April 2020, with the guidance of health and education experts, AFT developed a plan to open school buildings safely. 

AFT had four main goals throughout the pandemic: 

  1. Open schools safely because in-person learning was vital, 
  2. keep everyone safe, 
  3. focus on kids’ social, emotional and academic well-being, 
  4. and secure the resources needed to do it all. 

The development of AFT’s plan to reopen schools was informed by public health experts and community input. As the science of the pandemic was changing, so did AFT’s plan to reopen public schools. Through all of the changes, AFT continued to receive guidance from health experts, education experts, and heard testimonies from communities. 

Several members of the committee took the hearing as an opportunity to attack AFT’s motives for taking recommended safety precautions. Several alleged that AFT exerted influence to extend school closures but failed to adequately explain what Weingarten’s motivation for doing that might be.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) levied a particularly objectionable and homophobic attack against Weingarten, erroneously stating that Weingarten, who is a stepmother and adoptive parent, is “not a mother.” Rep. Robert Garcia stepped in to defend Weingarten, and all parents like her, cutting short this attack with a point of order, stating, “You are a mother. Thank you for being a great parent.”