by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Republicans on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic delivered a sharp rebuke to Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), for her organization’s role in delaying school reopenings during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The effect on children has been vast and to have no remorse on closing schools and keeping them closed for the length of time is unconscionable,” explained Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R., Iowa), a medical doctor and a former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.
Referenced throughout the hearing were consultations the American Federation of Teachers had with the Biden administration and the CDC about school reopenings. On January 29, 2021, Weingarten and senior AFT staff participated in a conference call with members of the CDC in which they suggested ideas. Two of the suggestions were accepted in guidance the Biden administration sent out in February of 2021. The first was to encourage schools to provide options for teachers and staff who had documented high-risk conditions and the second was to make clear that the government’s guidance may be changed depending upon new Covid variants. Several members took issue with this, including the committee’s chair, Representative Brad Wenstrup (R., Ohio).
Miller-Meeks chose to zero into the claim that AFT had scientific expertise that allowed it to take science-based positions.
The Iowa representative pointed to publications by the American Journal of Pediatrics that children had very little to no transmission of Covid-19.
“Did your scientific experts present to you, as of June of 2020, among 1.8 million children in this age group, do you know how many died from Covid?,” asked Miller-Meeks.
“I don’t have that number in my head,” replied Weingarten.
Miller-Meeks then answered her own question, saying the number is “zero.”