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Teachers Unions' COVID-19 Policies Harmed Children, as planned and with Full Impunity

Teachers unions' COVID-19 Policies Harmed Children

May 29, 2023: One of the biggest mistakes we made during the COVID-19 pandemic was keeping schools closed. The result of this mistake has been a severe loss of learning.

One of the chief culprits responsible for extended school closures is the far-left teachers unions , which worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to put their political priorities over the needs of children. This is exactly why House Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic brought in Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the second-largest teachers union, to testify under oath and deliver long-overdue accountability for parents and their children.

Weingarten testified that she worked to reopen schools safely, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Weingarten and teachers unions across the country advocated against the school reopenings they now claim to have supported. Weingarten herself called former President Donald Trump’s school reopening guidance “callous” and “cruel.”

There is also evidence, confirmed by Weingarten’s testimony in the select subcommittee, that the Biden administration’s CDC solicited input from the AFT on its COVID-19 school reopening policies. After my questioning, Weingarten also admitted to having CDC Director Rochelle Walensky’s personal phone number, something most members of Congress do not even have.

The fact that the president of the AFT has a direct line to the CDC director raises a number of concerns. The AFT is not a public health organization. It’s a political organization that donates millions of dollars to Democratic candidates. Yet the CDC ultimately used language in its reopening guidance that was almost verbatim to language proposed by the AFT.

The CDC clearly did not prioritize science over leftist teachers unions, and unfortunately, a generation of children is suffering the consequences.

The data on COVID-19 from the CDC itself indicated that children were at a low risk of serious effects from COVID-19, and other studies showed a low transmission rate from children to adults. That’s why other countries moved to reopen schools earlier. In fact, Sweden never closed its schools or required masking. No Swedish child died from COVID-19, and Sweden reported no learning loss as a result of the pandemic.

As a result of the closures here in the United States, children have fallen far behind. A new study shows students lost more than a third of a school year’s worth of learning when in-person learning stopped. Average ACT scores are at their lowest point in 30 years, further proof of the severe learning loss. It is a tragedy that so many children are struggling, and a new report estimates that it could take at least three to five years to recover from this learning loss.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic will continue to work to uncover the truth about the COVID-19 pandemic and hold officials accountable for the policies that have caused severe harm to people of all ages across the country. The CDC’s politicized school reopening guidance is just one of the many facets we will continue to investigate to ensure that, should another pandemic arise, we do not make the same mistakes again.

Debbie Lesko is a U.S. representative for Arizona and serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic.


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