Republicans Step Up Probe Looking for Meddling in Pandemic School-Reopening Decisions
House Republicans are stepping up their probe into potential interference with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around school reopening during the coronavirus pandemic.
Rep. Brad Wenstrup, Ohio Republican and chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic, announced on Tuesday that he’s requesting from the CDC, the American Federation of Teachers and 14 other non-governmental groups documents and information related to their role in the CDC’s COVID- 19 school reopening guidance.
In addition, he requested transcribed interviews from AFT President Randi Weingarten and other teachers’ union leaders to investigate their potential role in “keeping schools closed longer than necessary.”
“The AFT is a political union, not a professional scientific or medical organization,” Wenstrup said in a statement. “Yet, CDC permitted the AFT to edit the Operational Strategy prior to its release. The resulting published guidance advised keeping schools closed – contrary to the prevailing science – in greater than 90 percent of US counties.”
Weingarten and CDC officials have refuted that narrative, saying that their staff met to discuss the guidance ahead of its release and were allowed to review it — not edit it.
“You granted AFT ‘uncommon’ access to revise and edit an internal draft of the Operational Strategy at least two weeks prior to its release, even making line-by-line additions. The AFT’s input and access coincidentally shifted CDC’s guidance to align with AFT’s agenda – keeping schools closed,” Wenstrup wrote in a letter to the CDC requesting documents for the upcoming probe.
Wenstrup is also requesting documents from the National Education Association – the other national teachers union – the National Governors Association and other national organizations representing state education chiefs, school superintendents, principals, school boards, school nurses and more.
The investigation is just the latest grandstanding tactic from House Republicans who face slim chances of enacting any of their conservative policy priorities in a split Congress but continue to see the politics of pandemic schooling as a winning message during a year when 30,000 school board seats are up up for grabs and a 2024 presidential election looms.
On Tuesday, Wenstrup also convened a hearing to examine the “intended and unintended consequences” of closing schools for in-person learning, where he aired similar grievances about the academic and mental health challenges incurred by school closures.
Weingarten, for her part, blasted Republicans in a major speech Tuesday morning for attempting to dismantle the public education system and pouring accelerant on culture wars that are driving teachers away from an already wilting profession.