The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) colluded behind doors with the largest American teacher’s union at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure the plan to reopen the country’s classrooms met the needs of the union above those of students and parents.
A report from the Republican members of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis published on Wednesday shows that the Biden administration worked to derail an investigation into the CDC’s deference to the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) regarding school closures.
The Biden administration prevented CDC’s top scientists from answering questions about the role the AFT took in opposing in-person education and controlling the public health policy on reopening schools.
CDC officials interviewed by the committee testified that they considered it “uncommon” for the agency to solicit AFT input on policy documents that permitted extended school closures based on COVID-19 case counts.
The committee also found that Biden administration lawyers advised the scientists being interviewed to decline to respond to critical questions in order to shield the administration “from legitimate oversight.”
The witnesses who were told to refuse to answer questions included the CDC Center for Preparedness and Response Director Dr. Henry Walke. The report found that Dr. Walke was told not to answer questions about how the CDC incorporated edits to its February 2021 Operational Strategy made by the AFT. The lawyers relied on an agreement regarding the scope of the interview reached with staff for the Democratic members of the committee.
It was also revealed that the CDC gave permission to AFT President Randi Weingarten to “review and refine” the confidential guidelines before they were published to the public.
The revisions made by the AFT created privileges for teachers who refused to teach students in person and provided that modifications to the guidance, including school closures, could be issued by the CDC at any time.
The committee found that CDC incorporated the changes made by AFT “nearly word for word.”
Before the CDC incorporated the edits demanded by Weingarten, Director Rochelle Walensky admitted that school guidance decisions were being influenced by advocacy groups working to keep students away from schools.
Republicans on the committee said that Walensky attempted to “downplay the degree to which the CDC gave AFT access to the policymaking process.” It was determined that Walensky “personally managed” implementing Walensky’s edits to the school closure guidance.
Walensky sent an email prior to the publication of the guidance to AFT’s Director of Health Issues Kelly Trautner saying that she was grateful for the “language you have provided us.” She told Trautner that she wanted “to be certain you knew it is being worked into” the guidance. Walensky referred to AFT’s edits as part of a “partnership in this endeavor.”
Committee member Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) issued a statement saying the CDC ignored routine practice to allow a “radical teachers union that donated millions of dollars to Democrats” to rewrite official guidance. He added that AFT effectively locked millions of children out of their classrooms, and the Biden administration “put union bosses ahead of children.”