Teachers’ union president called out for misrepresenting her prior positions on school closures

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic on Wednesday to address school closures during COVID-19. Republican committee members focused on the teacher union’s role in school closure decisions during the pandemic and its push to delay reopening schools.

Weingarten took to Twitter to state that “Republicans on the House COVID subcommittee want you to think I wanted to keep schools closed.” She then shared a video titled, “The TRUTH about what Randi Weingarten REALLY said about opening schools during the pandemic” that included news clips of remarks she made on returning to in-person learning.

But through the platform’s Community Notes section, Twitter contributors linked a handful of articles underneath Weingarten’s video, stating she was misrepresenting her prior positions. The links are below.

“Reckless, callous, cruel”

In a July 2020 article by The Guardian, Weingarten calls then Pres. Donald Trump’s plans to reopen America’s schools in the fall of 2020 “reckless.”

“It’s as if Trump and DeVos want to create chaos and want to jeopardize reopening,” Weingarten said in an interview. “There’s no other reason why they would be this reckless, this callous, this cruel.”

Local teacher union affiliates aggressively fought school reopenings

In a December 2020 article by Education Week, local union affiliates of Weingarten’s AFT were identified as playing a “powerful role in negotiating school closures and reopenings,” with examples of them pressuring their state governors to shut down schools and speaking out against opening school buildings.

As I shared here, union reporter Mike Antonucci collected a treasure trove of evidence on how the union’s affiliates responded to school reopening efforts. “Even among the districts where schools eventually reopened, AFT unions offered more resistance than cooperation,” wrote Antonucci.

Areas with high teacher union influence remained closed much longer

The American Enterprise Institute in partnership with the College Crisis Initiative of Davidson College developed a Return to Learn Tracker, that monitored over 8,500 public school districts’ instructional statuses on a weekly basis. Remote learning lasted longer in areas with high union influence.

As I shared here, several studies found that school reopening decisions were driven more by teachers’ union influence than COVID infection rates and actual safety concerns.

Teacher unions continued push for remote learning in 2022

In a January 2022 New York Times article, more teachers’ unions were linked to continuing to push for remote learning, which the article stated was worrisome for parents and for Democrats.