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Randi Weingarten leads the nation’s second-largest teachers union — which is alarming, since her recent remarks show her thinking on school reopenings to be confused, offensive and downright creepy.
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this month, the American Federation of Teachers boss repeated many of the debunked talking points that her organization has used to deprive kids of in-school learning for a year. Along the way, though, she also made what can — at best — be described as a bizarre comment about American Jews.
Asked about why some parents are “very skeptical of the power that they perceive teachers unions to have,” Weingarten, rather than addressing her answer to all parents (as the framing of the question had it), replied that she has a “very pointed response here for Jews making this argument.”
She went on to claim that “American Jews are now part of the ownership class,” adding: “What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it.”
Pass the bong, Randi.
If the remark wasn’t outright anti-Semitic, it skirted the line. A charitable interpretation is that because she was speaking to a Jewish news agency, she figured her audience was majority Jewish-American. Still, it was pretty weird: The reporter’s question had quite literally nothing to do with Jews, yet Weingarten saw it necessary to reframe it as a matter of all-powerful Jews in the “ownership class” pressing for reopening — and in, so doing, oppressing the poor.
But how does opening schools benefit the wealthy — or the “ownership class,” as she put it in unmistakably Marxist language — at the expense of the vulnerable? The wealthy, after all, can place their kids in private schools that long ago reopened. It’s precisely the children of the poor, including poor people of color, who suffer from the irrational and unscientific school closures Weingarten defends tooth and nail.
Indeed, when it comes to which groups’ interests are inimical to those of vulnerable students, Weingarten’s organization tops the list. Teachers unions continue to resist in-person teaching even as kids fall behind in their education and experience worsening mental health, as evidence shows kids transmit the novel coronavirus at a much lower rate than adults — and as we’ve learned that schools aren’t vectors for the disease compared to other community settings.
Charter schools like the Success Academy, by contrast, have been delivering high-quality education to poor kids throughout the pandemic — though space limitations imposed by city authorities mean it’s online-based. For their trouble, these schools receive nothing but hatred and false propaganda from Weingarten, her Democratic machine allies across the nation and a pliant blue-check media.
Who truly serves the children of the poor, and who disserves them? The average family income of a student at a Success charter was $49,800. And the network as a whole scored better on both math and reading tests than any school district in New York.
Catholic parochial schools, too, including many that serve poor neighborhoods, are seeing a surge of enrollment applications for parents who see with their own eyes the damage the ongoing school closures inflict on their kids’ academic and psychological well-being. If any actor in this situation is waging class warfare against lower-income Americans, it’s Weingarten and her intransigent and craven union.
Yet it says something that Weingarten can shamelessly gaslight the American people. She and the AFT keep spreading lies — because they can.
Jack Elbaum is a freshman at George Washington University.
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