Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has been in the news recently for her trip to Ukraine to evaluate damage to education from the Russian war and for the AFT nationwide get-out-the-vote election bus tour.
Meanwhile, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), commonly referred to as “the nation’s report card” was just released and the kids are not all right.
NAEP released its first full report since 2019 this week, demonstrating a drop in math and reading scores for fourth through eighth graders.
In 2022, the average fourth-grade math score decreased to its lowest level since 2005 while the average eighth-grade math score hit its lowest level since 2003. Reading scores also dropped on average. It is no secret the decline in learning metrics is a direct result of school closures and remote learning during the pandemic.
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As a physician and mother of three, I am appalled at the past and most recent egotistical behavior of teachers’ unions while parents and some educators scramble to find ways to help their children recover from the aftermath of the pandemic.
According to UNESCO, about 90% of school age children worldwide were not in school by the end of spring 2020. This eventually became the most widespread, lengthiest disruption in education since formal instruction became the standard in the late 19th century.
In the United States, compared to many European and Asian countries, schools were closed longer.
The teachers’ unions fought against policy that threatened their grasp on education – calling for strict COVID policies and resisting school choice that would have allowed families to take their children and education dollars elsewhere.
There are two major teachers’ unions in the country: The National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). According to the website OpenSecrets, between the two, teachers’ unions have given more than $65 million in political contributions, the far vast majority being to Democrats. Weingarten has served in top leadership roles in teachers’ unions for 23 consecutive years.
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The AFT’s current mission is to urge people to get out and vote for elected officials who will work toward their goals.
And what are their goals?
They say they are, “our democracy and our freedoms, public education, healthcare, Medicare and Social Security, safety from gun violence, and economic security.”
Nowhere do they mention the declining educational metrics and worsening health among children as direct consequences from their own advocacy.
As the upcoming midterm elections loom, this relationship becomes more relevant.
A comprehensive review of reopening decisions showed the actions of a district’s union, not the prevalence of community infection, was the best predictor of prolonged school closures during the pandemic.
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During this time, Randi Weingarten and the teachers’ unions fought to keep schools closed, while taking childhood education hostage as they negotiated pre-existing political demands.
Prior to the 2020-2021 school year, Weingarten threatened a strike, stating that “nothing is off the table” if school districts decided to reopen. The Chicago Teachers Union tweeted that the push to reopen schools was “rooted in sexism, racism and misogyny.”
Unions inserted non-COVID, predominately liberal demands into reopening discussions, including “Medicare-for-all,” a wealth tax, defunding the police, and restricting access to charter and religious schools.
Their priorities in their current mission haven’t changed despite obvious repercussions.
In addition to over $185 million in relief funding for schools, teachers were offered the opportunity to receive the vaccine ahead of others despite CDC Director Rochelle Walensky saying, “Increasing data suggests that schools can safely reopen and that safe reopen does not suggest that teachers need to be vaccinated in order to reopen safely.”
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Weingarten was resistant to reopening schools both before and after the vaccines were available.
Emails between the teachers’ union and the CDC highlighted the weight the unions had in molding public health recommendations and subsequent policy.
Weingarten’s union was accused by the New York Post of lobbying the CDC over the school reopening update in February 2021. Ultimately, the union’s recommendations were accepted nearly word-for-word.
The consequences of their contribution to keeping schools closed are profound.
The U.S. high school graduating class of 2022 had the lowest average ACT score in more than three decades. More than 40% of recent high school graduates did not meet the ACT college readiness benchmarks, including English, math and science.
High school graduation rates are even trending down as students have traded schooling for employment.
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National data also show declines in math and reading scores among younger children too. A recent review of reading and math proficiency of 9-year-olds showed the first statistically significant drop in scores in decades, like newly reported in older kids.
The U.S. surgeon general has also formally declared a mental health crisis in our youth, citing increased rates of depression and anxiety during the pandemic.
The pandemic has caused kids to gain a lot of weight, too, increasing already high obesity rates.
Weingarten says kids are resilient and will recover.
Parents – myself included — aren’t as confident and worry about their kids’ well-being.
Meanwhile, Weingarten continues her gaslighting by portraying herself as a children’s activist. In reality, she has been advocating against them.
She lacks self-awareness that her actions resulted in massive learning loss and worsened the physical and mental health of children.
When it comes to kids’ welfare, Randi Weingarten should not be involved in the conversation.
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