The second-largest teacher’s union in America was in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on school reopening guidance, even successfully getting some of its recommendations inserted into the official guidance, newly released records show.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and its president, Randi Weingarten, spoke multiple times with top CDC officials in the days leading up to the agency’s Feb. 12 publication of the guidance, according to internal emails (pdf) obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by Americans for Public Trust, a watchdog group.
Weingarten discussed the pending guidance with CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on Feb. 1. A teacher’s union official then emailed a slew of CDC and White House officials, thanking them for the “rich discussion” and expressing hope “that lines of communications will remain open, and that we can serve as a true thought partner as you continue the important work toward safe reopening of schools.”
The official provided a lengthy paragraph that Weingarten committed to providing the CDC.
“I just wanted to circle back and extend my gratitude for the language you have provided us,” Walensky responded.
“Regrets for my delay in reply but I wanted to be certain you knew it is being worked into (with just a few small tweaks) the school opening guidance. We have also included the executive summary you suggested. Please know we are listening and working hard to ensure your confidence and partnership in this endeavor.”
Nearly every word from the 123-word paragraph made it into the final product.
Weingarten spoke with Walensky again on Feb. 7, calling the health director’s cell phone. The call was scheduled to take about 15 minutes.
On Feb. 11, just one day before the release of the official guidance, an AFT official again emailed a slew of CDC and White House officials, urging them to adopt the following sentence, “In the event high-community transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”
The guidance ended up including the following line, “In the event of increased levels of community transmission resulting from a variant of SARS-CoV-2, updates to this guidance may be necessary.”