Randi Weingarten’s Not-So-Dandy Year

I have written about Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, many times over the years, as there is an ongoing abundance of subject matter to be explored. And 2023 has certainly not been an exception. Picking up where I left off in March….

In April, Weingarten exhibited a textbook example of hypocrisy. It’s no secret that she and other union honchos hate charter schools. These schools are rarely unionized and typically do better at educating kids than the traditional public school variety. Perhaps worse for the union crowd, charters are frequently housed in public schools with extra space due to insufficient funding.

Weingarten especially has it in for Eva Moscowitz, who runs the very successful Success Academy chain of charter schools in New York. Under Weingarten’s guidance, her union pressured New York City Mayor Eric Adams to cancel three of Moskowitz’s co-location proposals for the city.

Yet at the very same time, Weingarten, who sits on the board of University Prep, a unionized charter, convinced the NYC Board of Education to approve a co-location for one of their schools. 

Also in April, Weingarten testified before the House Subcommittee on the Covid pandemic. She was there to answer questions about her union’s influence on school reopening guidelines issued by the CDC.

While Weingarten insisted that her main goal was opening schools, it was anything but. She constantly argued for keeping schools shuttered through the spring and summer of 2020 when her union aggressively lobbied the CDC to adjust its school-reopening guidance. Two of its language recommendations were adopted verbatim.

Yet, she had the audacity to tell Congress, “We spent every day from February (2020) on trying to get schools open. We knew that remote education was not a substitute for opening schools. We know that young people learn and connect best in person, so opening schools safely – even during a pandemic – guided our actions, which I will describe in detail.”

But her “details” were really quite undetailed. She dodged, obfuscated, and even used the fact that she was 65 years old to explain her memory lapses.

Additionally, Dr. Tracy Høeg, an epidemiologist, blasted Weingarten, accusing her of fudging a scientific study to wrongly argue to Congress that schools should have been kept closed during the height of COVID-19.

In May, Weingarten opined in an article that “Culture Wars Harm Education.” She starts off the piece, “Nowadays I am the president of a union, but I am harking back to my years as a civics teacher as I write this column. Governors and education officials in Florida and other states are doing exactly what extremists baselessly accuse educators of doing—imposing their ideological agenda on public schools, rewriting history, stifling free expression and creating intolerance.”

First off, no one is more involved with “imposing their ideological agenda on public schools” than she is. From all the sex and gender craziness to inviting Ibram X. Kendi – probably the most vocal and aggressive CRT proponent in the country – to speak at an AFT conference. His talk was touted as, “Hear from Dr. Ibram X. Kendi in this free-ranging discussion with student activists and AFT members on his scholarship and on developing anti-racist mindsets and actions inside and outside classrooms.” 

Regarding Weingarten’s “years as a civics teacher” – more hooey. Yes, she taught history at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn for a few years, but in 2011, EAG News obtained her personnel file via a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request. According to the New York City Board of Education, she was hired as a substitute teacher in 1991, received a provisional license in 1993, and a certificate to serve as a substitute in 1994. Additionally, “A 1997 letter indicates she didn’t submit documentation showing she’d met requirements for licensure. No record indicates she ever served as a full-time teacher or was evaluated by a principal or other school official.” 

Yet she has never acknowledged these details or corrected the record. When she ran for president of New York’s United Federation of Teachers in 1998, her opponent Michael Shulman suggested that that she was not a “real teacher,” explaining, “She worked five months full-time that I’ve been aware of, in 1992, at Clara Barton High School.” He added, “Since then, she taught maybe one class for 40 minutes a day.” 

Also, in May, it was revealed that despite her very brief stint as a teacher, she earned 15 years’ worth of pension benefits. The New York City teacher union collective bargaining agreement allowed her to have over 11 extra years counted toward her service even though she wasn’t in the classroom. This likely came from “time spent…on union leave as treasurer and then president of UFT (the AFT affiliate in NYC) from 1997 until her election as AFT president in 2008,” Freedom Foundation’s Director of Research Maxford Nelsen notes. 

In June, national security took a hit when Weingarten was appointed to a new Department of Homeland Security school safety advisory council tasked with making recommendations on “emergency management,” “preparedness measures,” and “safety and security” in schools.

Leaders of our academic institutions and campus life have a great deal to offer in helping us counter the evolving and emerging threats to the homeland,” DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement.

Senator Rick Scott (R., Fl.), venting his frustration with the appointment, declared Weingarten “is the last person who should be advising anyone on school safety.”

July saw Weingarten’s union hold its yearly convention, in which it tackled such matters as “Affirming LGBTQIA+ Identities in and out of the classroom,” “Education for Liberation: The Role of the Racially Conscious Educator in Combating Oppression,” and “Strategies for Integrating Climate Change into Your Teaching.”

In September, Weingarten’s union launched a major ad blitz to “highlight the important work educators are doing in America’s public schools to help kids, which is in stark contrast to the toxic attacks by extremists trying to weaken and destroy public education.”

Yup, with no sense of irony, the union that is obsessed with race and sexual engineering – think “Affirming LGBTQIA+ Identities in and out of the classroom,” – refers to those of us who are a wee bit more traditional in our approach to education as “extremists.”

Also, in September, Weingarten trashed House Republicans’ “Sham Impeachment Inquiry.” Her press release stated, “While President Biden gets up every day and does the people’s business—strengthening the economy, advancing our national security interests, and bringing back stability and honor to the workings of government—House Republicans have done little other than pursue spurious, fact-free investigations. Not one major initiative, other than a budget bill averting default—which they are now disavowing—has become law.”

“National security interests.” The porous southern border?

“Strengthening the economy.” Record inflation?

“Does the ‘people’s’ business.” He was doing business all right, but hardly the “people’s.” There’s plenty of evidence that Biden’s son Hunter and others in his family received millions of dollars from foreign partners who believed they were buying influence with his father.

In September, Weingarten really stepped in it when she compared the rhetoric of school choice supporters to that of segregationists.

I was kind of gobsmacked when I was talking to Southern Poverty Law Center, and they showed me the same words: choice’, ‘parental rights’ and attempts to divide parents versus teachers, and at that point, it was white parents versus other parents. But it’s the same kind of words.”

What is truly gobsmacking is that the union boss actually takes the comment and SPLC seriously. The widely discredited group recently smeared parent activist group Moms for Liberty, equating them to neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan, and labeling them an “extremist group” that is “anti-government.”  

Weingarten then dug a bit deeper into her hole, stupidly averring that pro-school choicers “want to have, basically, a Christian ideology, their particular Christian ideology to dominate the country as opposed to those that was born on the freedom (sic) of the exercise of religion.”

Talking about religion, she furthered her descent into dumb this month. Weingarten, who once stated that she was a “deeply religious Jew,” was perplexed as to why video footage of an Orthodox Jewish prayer service only showed men.

On X, she asked, “Where are the women?”

She received a quick “community note” which explained that Orthodox Jews have had gender separated prayers for thousands of years and added, “The women were on the other side praying and would not be visible from someone recording in the ‘men’s section.’”

The video footage, supplied by conservative commentator Mark Levin, who is not known for his subtlety, tweeted back to Weingarten, “You’re such a contemptible moron. Get off my timeline you idiot.”

Also, this month, Axios reported, “Homeschooling is now the fastest-growing form of education in the U.S.,” citing a Washington Post analysis. Weingarten was castigated by many on X after she questioned why this is happening. Typical was Manhattan Institute’s Ilya Shapiro, who told Weingarten in a tweet that the growth of homeschooling is due to “the policies you’ve advocated, Covid-related and otherwise. Just like you’re behind much of the increased support for school choice and educational freedom. Congratulations!”

As Mike Antonucci noted in 2022, Weingarten has averaged about 47 tweets a day for more than 11 years. Maybe if she spent a little more time researching the issues instead of shooting her mouth off willy-nilly, she would be less likely to keep stepping in dog stuff, which she does practically on a daily basis.

To Weingarten’s credit, she recently asserted, “All of us do stupid things, and you know, I’ve done stupid things and I made misjudgments,” but gave no examples.

I’m not sure just what stupid things she is referring to, but there is clearly an abundance to choose from.

Perhaps even sadder than Weingarten’s irritating and gaffe-prone nature is that there are 1.7 million teachers who keep her in office and pay her over $500,000 a year for the privilege. Now that is really stupid.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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About Larry Sand

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network—a nonpartisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Photo: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, during a Senate bipartisan Artificial Intelligence (AI) Insight Forum on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023. The gathering is part of the Senate majority leader's strategy to give Congress more influence over the future of artificial intelligence as it takes on a growing role in the professional and personal lives of Americans. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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