Parental Guidance suggested: CDC calendar shows minimal last-minute input from parents on school reopenings

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

Despite her claims of working “to hear firsthand from…

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten

Despite her claims of working “to hear firsthand from parents,” the Centers for Disease Control director’s calendar shows just one meeting with parents – only two days before the agency issued its guidance on school reopening. 

In contrast, teachers’ unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association were free to edit the guidance’s language, and were afforded seemingly unlimited access to the CDC’s highest officials, including Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky. 

Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of Americans for Public Trust, provided Walensky’s calendar to Fox News Digital, which undercuts Walensky’s pledge of parental input. 

“Rochelle Walensky has repeatedly said she consulted with parents on school reopening guidance, but newly obtained records show that’s anything but the truth,” Sutherland said. 

The calendar shows a single 30-minute meeting with parents that took place via zoom on Feb. 10, 2021. The half-hour session allowed parents to “introduce themselves and discuss their needs for safe school reopening,” with a three-minute time limit per parent.  

AFT President Randi Weingarten tweeted a screenshot of the parents’ brief meeting a few months later, once reports about collaboration between the CDC and teachers’ unions began to surface. Her post went over poorly, as critics from both sides of the political spectrum cried foul about the meeting.  

Jason McDonald, Walensky’s press secretary, explained the discrepancy between claims of parental input and the single half-hour meeting by arguing Walensky was “referring to all of the parental engagements conducted by CDC scientists and experts leading up to the issuance of the school guidance.” 

In the Feb. 12, 2021 press briefing for the release of the school reopening guidelines, Walensky spoke of listening to “lived experiences, challenges, and perspectives” from real parents, and that the CDC was working to hear firsthand from these parents.  

She told NBC News that “the latest guidance is based on science and outreach with teachers, parents and the Department of Education.” 

Walensky also pointed to “sessions” that included input from parents that influenced guidance changes.  

“Instead of giving parents a meaningful seat at the table, she once again prioritized teacher union bosses – giving them instant and unfettered access while parents were relegated to a singular 30-minute meeting,” said Sutherland. 

McDonald further defended Walensky’s claims of parental input by saying that “CDC experts fielded 17,276 calls and email messages from Americans asking about COVID-19 and schools between March 1, 2020 and Feb. 11, 2021.” 

Critics note, however, that Walensky’s lone meeting with parents pales in comparison to the continued back-and-forth afforded to the NEA and AFT, raising major concerns about whose interests the CDC actually represented. 

“Parents and children are still dealing with the fallout of school closures,” said Sutherland, pointing to learning losses in math and reading scores. “And that’s a direct result of the White House and the CDC enabling Randi Weingarten and [NEA President] Becky Pringle to write the guidance that kept our schools closed.”