Randi Weingarten, president of the largest teachers union in the U.S., on Tuesday said the Biden administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “asked for language” in its school reopening guidelines.
The CDC guidelines released in February, while not in complete alignment with union demands with the inclusion of language saying COVID-19 vaccines are optional for educators teaching in-person and students must be 3 feet apart rather than 6, still included some verbatim wording from the American Federation of Teachers, according to documents obtained by The New York Post.
“This is normal rulemaking, frankly,” Weingarten told C-SPAN when asked about the Post’s report. “This is what every administration used to do. The problem with the last administration didn’t do it.”
She continued: “[The CDC] asked us for language and we gave them language.”
“But if you look at the public record, I was saying these kinds of these publicly,” she added. “So there’s nothing nefarious about doing this kind of work.”
Emails obtained by the Post revealed a “flurry” of communication between AFT senior director for health issues Kelly Trautner, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, other CDC advisors and Biden administration officials including White House associate director of public engagement Will McIntee. The communications suggest efforts to coordinate the CDC’s reopening guidelines with recommendations from the AFT.
The CDC, AFT and White House did not immediately respond to inquiries from Fox News.
“When CDC guidelines are taken verbatim from language suggested by powerful teachers unions, it diminishes the public trust in our civil institutions,” Jude Schwalbach, research associate and project coordinator in education policy at The Heritage Foundation, told Fox News in a statement. “Parents—the biggest stakeholders in education—do not have the political clout to affect CDC reopening guidelines, yet teachers unions have a direct line to policymakers in the upper echelons of the CDC.”
There are at least two instances in which the CDC adopted AFT language “nearly verbatim” for its guidelines, according to the Post.
Language from Trautner to the CDC that reads, “In the event of high community-transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary,” appeared on page 22 of the CDC’s guidelines, the Post reported.
Weingarten commended the federal agency in a Feb. 12 statement following its publication of the reopening guidelines.
“The CDC has produced an informed, tactile plan that has the potential to help school communities around the country stay safe by defining the mitigation and accommodation measures, and other tools educators and kids need, so classrooms can once again be vibrant places of learning and engagement,” the AFT president said in a statement at the time.
House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, House Oversight Committee Ranking Member James Comer, R-Ky., and House Education and Labor Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C. penned a letter to the CDC accusing the agency of putting “political obedience to Democrat-aligned special interest groups” ahead of “our nation’s youth.”
The lawmakers demanded the agency release all correspondence “between or among employees, contractors and representatives of the CDC and representatives of any teacher’s union” since President Biden entered office, citing emails that show regular correspondence between the government agency and the American Federation of Teachers.
While the majority U.S. public schools have returned to in-person learning, some students are still learning remotely through hybrid models that allow them to come into school a couple days a week, according to the American Enterprise Institute’s school reopening tracker. Students in many states have been learning remotely through hybrid or fully remote learning models for more than a year.
Fox News’ Yael Halon contributed to this report.