New Report reveals extent to which teachers’ unions coordinated with the CDC on school reopening guidance

The CDC continues to defend its collaboration with teachers’ unions on school reopening guidance as routine, but a new report from lawmakers shows the collaboration was anything but.

The report, released by Republican lawmakers on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, includes a CDC official’s testimony that the groups coordinated in extraordinary detail.

The lawmakers write that teachers’ unions were granted “unprecedented access to the policymaking process for guidance on re-opening schools.”

“The facts are clear: Biden’s CDC overrode routine practice to allow a radical teachers union that donated millions of dollars to Democrat campaigns to bypass scientific norms and rewrite official agency guidance,” Steve Scalise, R-Louisiana, and James Comer, R-Kentucky, said in a statement about the findings.

The report describes the “cozy relationship with the Biden administration’s political leadership” in which the [American Federation of Teachers] was positioned to “impose line-by-line edits” to reopening guidances. This level of access clearly conflicts with the CDC’s past practices of keeping “draft guidance confidential.”

Evidence of the collaboration emerged last October when emails obtained by Americans for Public Trust revealed that the National Education Association and AFT, the two largest teachers’ unions in the nation, received copies of the guidance before the CDC released it publically.

Then, AFT’s senior director of health issues, Kelly Trautner, instructed the CDC to add the provision, “In the event high-community transmission results from a new variant of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.” Trautner emailed this directive to CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Feb. 11, 2021, one day before the public release.

Walensky forwarded emails with the new marching orders over to Dr. Henry Walke, director of the CDC’s Center for Preparedness and Response, who revised the guidance accordingly. 

Further, according to the new report, “Documents and testimony show … that Director Walensky downplayed the degree to which CDC departed from past practice to allow AFT to affect the policymaking process. In fact, CDC allowed AFT to insert language into the Operational Guidance that made it more likely schools across the country would remain closed after February 2021.”

The report also includes testimony from Walke, based on a Feb. 18, 2022 interview, making it clear that the coordination was unusual and that opening draft guidance to parties outside the agency is very rare. The Biden administration’s lawyers would not allow Walke to explain why this level of coordination with the unions was allowed. 

“The damaging edits by union bosses effectively kept thousands of schools shuttered across the country, locking millions of children out of their classrooms,” Scalise and Comer wrote. “Millions of Americans are still outraged at what these Washington Democrats put their children through, and all because union bosses demanded they keep schools closed longer.”