Conservative political commentator and father Scott Jennings called out national teachers’ union chief Randi Weingarten to her face Thursday for denying her leading role in keeping schools closed during the pandemic.
“Speaking on behalf of millions of American parents … I am stunned at what you have said this week about your claiming to have wanted to reopen schools,” Jennings said during a panel discussion on CNN. “You’ll find that most parents believe you were the tip of the spear of school closures. There are numerous statements you made over the summer of ’20 scaring people to death about the possibility of opening schools.”
The rebuke by Jennings, a CNN contributor and former Republican political adviser, comes after Weingarten testified before Congress this week that she worked tirelessly to reopen schools during the pandemic.
“We spent every day from February on trying to get schools open,” Weingarten told lawmakers Wednesday. “We knew that remote education was not a substitute for opening schools.”
But during the pandemic Weingarten frequently railed against calls to reopen schools, calling the notion “very dangerous” and accusing then-president Donald Trump of being “callous” and “cruel” for supporting their reopening. “Covid became an opportunity for her union, the American Federation of Teachers, to push for broader policy changes that it had long favored,” the New York Times reported Friday.
This week also saw new revelations about the extent to which Weingarten’s union advised the Biden administration, and even the Biden presidential campaign, on its policies regarding reopening schools. In February 2021, Weingarten spoke twice on the phone with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky, days before the agency’s announcement of guidance that halted full reopening of schools, the New York Post reported Tuesday.
On CNN Thursday, Jennings took Weingarten to task for her role in the harm done to American children’s educational progress because they were denied in-person schooling.
“I hear no remorse whatsoever about the generational damage that’s been done to these kids,” Jennings said. “I have two kids with learning differences. Do you know how hard it is for them to learn at home and not in a classroom that was designed for them? And for you to sit in front of Congress and the American people and say, ‘Oh, I wanted to open them the whole time,’ I am shocked.”
Weingarten told Jennings that she knew “the importance of reopening schools and the importance of making sure that people were safe. Parents, she claimed, “basically understood and supported that we needed to do both.”
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