AFT boss Randi Weingarten questioned language in school reopening plan in chummy exchange with CDC chief, texts show

According to newly published texts, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten expressed concern to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky a day prior to the guidance for February 2021’s school opening to the public.

Fairfax County Parents Association obtained the text messages revealing the chummy exchange of Weingarten with Walensky through a Freedom of Information Act Request to the CDC.

The text chains appear to show Walensky giving in to Weingarten’s pressure to keep the schools closed by February 2021. She then thanks Weingarten for releasing a statement that praised the Health Agency.

In text messages sent on Feb. 11, 2021 – a day before CDC guidance was issued that put a stop to full in-person instruction at schools – Weingarten told Walensky she learned that the incoming guidance contained language that “seemed at odds” with what they had discussed previously.

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“Hi, it’s Randi. We heard something that was at odds with the discussion from a [New York Times] leaked article. Walensky texted Weingarten: “Do you have time to call?”

“Hmmm. Argh. I’m surrounded by meetings. This afternoon, I’d like to touch base. “Are you able ping what you have learned?” asks the CDC Director.

Walensky then sends to the media a statement that, according to her, was “leaked by someone at agency.” The statement reads: “All schools can provide full or hybrid in-person instruction, through strict adherence of mitigation strategies.”

When the CDC published its operational guidance for schools the following day, the phrase “all school can provide in person instruction” was changed to “all school have options to provide instruction in person”.

Weingarten sends Walensky a text message with a link to AFT’s guidance press release, which includes her glowing remarks about the CDC.

Weingarten’s statement praised the agency for “confronting the fear of pandemic with facts, evidence and a tactile plan” that could help schools across the country remain safe.

Walensky responded to the message saying: “This gave ME the biggest smile of the week, THANK YOU, Friend!”

Weingarten responds with a smiley-face emoji, telling her “We’ll fuss a bit on ventilation, but I’m so grateful.”

“Me too. Walensky replies, “Totally fair!”

Fairfax County Parents Association spokeswoman Christy Hudson said to The Post that they were “surprised”, but not surprised, by the content of these texts.

Hudson said, “As parents, we closely followed the political maneuvering around school closures in local, state and federal levels. It was clear to us that the CDC deferred to teachers’ unions, not science, when it came to reopening the schools.”

Parents in Fairfax County have been raising the alarm since June 2020 about the mental, emotional, academic and social harms that occur to children when schools are closed.

As we’ve always told parents who advocate for teachers, unions exist in order to represent their dues paying members. The teachers unions do not exist in order to represent the children’s interests. “These new texts confirm that the CDC is not interested in children’s best interests either”, she added.

Walensky – who announced last month she would be stepping down by June 30 – will appear before the Select Subcommittee for the Coronavirus Pandemic later this month. The committee has been examining the communications between Walensky and Weingarten leading up to the February 2020 guidance release.

Weingarten told Congress in April she and Walensky had spoken directly on the phone about CDC policies regarding guidelines for reopening schools in early 2021.