Randi Weingarten’s Not-So-Dandy Year

Published November 22, 2023
Randi Weingarten White House Flickr

The union boss has been having an awful 2023.

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 toinviting 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.