The teachers union chief tries to rewrite the pandemic history of school closures.
By The Editorial Board – April 30, 2023 5:37 pm ET – The Wall Street Journal
Much still needs to be learned about the long-term health effects of Covid-19, but we already know one of the clear long-term political effects: memory loss. That’s the only way to explain why long-time advocates of pandemic lockdowns are now denying they ever supported the school and economic shutdowns that did so much harm to so many.
Leading the amnesia parade is Randi Weingarten, the American Federation of Teachers president who attempted to erase two years of Covid history in testimony last week to the House of Representatives that was, literally, unbelievable.
“We spent every day from February on trying to get schools open. We knew that remote education was not a substitute for opening schools,” she told the House. “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.”
Alas, her “detail” omitted a few things. Such as her description in July 2020 of the Trump Administration’s push to reopen schools for in-person learning that autumn as “this reckless, this callous, this cruel.” That summer she also endorsed teacher “safety strikes” if unions deemed local reopening protocols to be inadequate. Hundreds of private and charter schools did open that fall without the surge of illness that Ms. Weingarten claimed to fear.
She also left out the detail that local union affiliates were the most aggressive opponents of school reopening throughout 2021 and even into 2022. “We are practically begging [the Chicago Teachers Union] to come to the table so we can get a deal done,” Chicago’s Democratic Mayor Lori Lightfoot said in February 2021.
Even a year later, in January 2022, the Chicago union again voted against in-person learning. The union said it wouldn’t relent until the surge in Covid-19 cases subsided, or the school district signed an agreement “establishing conditions for return” approved by the Chicago union.
After Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Florida schools to reopen in autumn 2020, the Florida Education Association sued the state to keep them closed. The schools opened—much to the benefit of students who learn far better in person according to all the evidence. We could cite many other union quotes and efforts.
Ms. Weingarten and others are trying to rewrite history because they realize now, far too late, that their lockdowns are unpopular. The public can see the damage in lost learning and livelihoods. The lockdown lobbyists want everyone to forget it all happened, but it’s important for democratic accountability that they don’t get away with it.
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Appeared in the May 1, 2023, print edition as ‘Incredible Covid Memory Loss’.