(The opinions expressed in guest op-eds are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of RedState.com.)
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has made herself the lightning rod of the national teachers’ union movement, and that’s probably to the relief of the National Education Association (NEA).
While the NEA is the nation’s largest teachers’ union, its president, Becky Pringle, is not the household name Weingarten’s mouth has made her.
Weingarten is a favorite of the legacy media because she tends to articulate pretty much what the talking heads were dying to say anyway.
But anyone who talks as much as she does is likely to make unforced errors, and she’s made plenty now that she created this election cycle’s newest official constituent group — fed-up parents who want more control over their children’s education.
In fact, her latest gaffe could wind up costing the members of her union dearly when she has to buy her way out of legal jeopardy with their dues dollars (and our tax dollars!).
During a characteristically softball April 23 interview on MSNBC, Weingarten couldn’t resist commenting on a speech delivered a few weeks earlier at Hillsdale College by Christopher Rufo, a writer for the City Journal and fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Rufo is also an investigative journalist who has exposed just how entrenched Critical Race Theory is in the education system and has become a popular proponent of the school choice movement.
In what can only be a deflection from the work she herself has done to turn the public sentiment against government schools, Weingarten accused Rufo of lying about the state of modern education to gin up anger toward teachers and, more directly, teachers’ unions. Her comments echoed an earlier post she had made on Twitter.
“Rufo himself said, ‘To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust. To sow & grow that distrust, you have to create your own narrative frame, & have to be brutal & ruthless in pursuing it. Let’s be clear about what Rufo is saying. This isn’t about helping kids. This is about sowing distrust and chaos.”
Rufo himself said “To get to universal school choice,you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust. To sow & grow that distrust, you have to create your own narrative frame,& have to be brutal & ruthless in pursuing it.” https://t.co/XY7e0yugtr
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) April 24, 2022
On April 25, Rufo fired back, claiming Weingarten misrepresented his remarks by splicing together two separate quotes. He tweeted:
“Randi combines two unrelated lines and fabricates the words ‘to sow & grow that distrust’ to make it seem sinister. In the speech, I say the opposite — the ‘teachers unions’ have created distrust.”
Rufo threatened to take legal action unless Weingarten admits her deceit and offers an apology.
Presumably, he isn’t holding his breath while he waits.
It isn’t clear how her members benefit from Weingarten engaging in a war of words rather than attending to the day-to-day responsibilities of workplace representation. On the other hand, for a refreshing change, the AFT president’s latest kerfuffle has at least a passing acquaintance with education.
That isn’t always the case. For example:
- At Weingarten’s insistence, the AFT adopted a resolution stating, “(T)he American Federation of Teachers stands with Planned Parenthood and the millions who depend on its healthcare services, including … safe abortions.”
- Describing her union as a “beacon of hope on climate change,” Weingarten wrote, “In the fight for environmental justice, much of the leadership is coming from students — and their teachers couldn’t be prouder.”
- Weingarten threatened to order a boycott of Walmart, vowing that unless the retail giant stopped selling guns and supporting candidates opposed to curtailing Second Amendment rights, “…teachers and students should reconsider doing their back-to-school shopping at your stores.”
- Incomprehensibly, Weingarten has even used her position to spew anti-Semitic hate. A Jew herself, she nonetheless told an Israeli publication, “American Jews are now part of the ownership class … those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it.”
- Most recently, Weingarten weighed in on the Florida law that bans age-inappropriate discussions of sexual orientation and identity for Kindergarten through third grade: “It’s getting reckless and heinous, and they think it will make people hide or stop teaching – to stop teaching kids to think critically and stop teaching kids to love their neighbors and build community. I have talked to our LGBTQ+ members to be their backstop.”
For Randi Weingarten, the presidency of AFT is little more than a bully pulpit from which to fulminate about her radical leftist agenda. More to the point, she sees the organization’s $300 million budget as a slush fund she can use to underwrite her preferred candidates and causes.
Fortunately, she overplayed her hand with the COVID school lockdown debacle and awoke a sleeping tiger in American parents.
And now that we’re getting a more complete picture of the damage her school closures have inflicted on our nation’s children, she’s in damage-control mode.
Last week in a statement commemorating Teacher Appreciation Week, Weingarten waxed eloquently about how:
“Teachers, together with parents and caregivers, have helped carry our kids through a tumultuous few years, working to safely reopen our classrooms so that kids and families could bounce back academically, socially and emotionally. From reading, writing and arithmetic, to building lasting relationships, teachers instill in our students a lifelong love of learning and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to become critical thinkers and engaged citizens.”
Unsurprisingly, Weingarten glossed over the role her union played in creating this tumult by insisting students remain out of the classroom far beyond any reasonable need to do so. Without accepting any blame, Weingarten herself was caught during an AFT event conceding the damage done to millions of students:
“Our kids are in crisis. And we had a mental health crisis before COVID … but for two years of disruption, two years of looking at the screens, two years of not having a normal kind of routine and rhythm, recovery is really tough.”
The Freedom Foundation has helped thousands of teachers and other school employees leave their unions since the COVID shutdowns began in March 2020, and thousands more will continue to drop their union membership because of Randi Weingarten’s radical policies.
The AFT alone experienced a two percent decline in membership last year because so many educators were upset about how she manipulated the situation for partisan politics, and now she’s trying to re-write the history of the past two years.
She needs to pay a price for the damage she caused our school children, as do all the officials who followed her lead and kept the schools shut and kids isolated, staring at screens and not getting the education they needed.
Jeff Rhodes is the vice president of news and information for the Freedom Foundation. www.FreedomFoundation.com