Republican Report Shows Teachers Unions Helped CDC Write School COVID Rules That Kept Schools Closed

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed the nation’s second-largest teachers union to help write COVID-19 guidelines that led to extended school closures during the pandemic, according to a new report released Wednesday.

The findings are included in a House GOP interim report issued by the conference’s Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which is investigating how the government responded to the pandemic.

The committee’s investigators found that union officials “wrote key portions” of the CDC’s February 2021 report setting guidelines for when and how schools should reopen.

Documents in the report show the White House and CDC staff communicating extensively with union officials about a draft of the school reopening guidance before it was issued on Feb. 12, 2021.

According to emails obtained by the GOP, Republicans allege, the Biden administration “indicated a willingness to accept near-verbatim edits to the Operational Strategy.”

Republicans said the teachers union convinced the CDC to rewrite the draft to include “closure triggers” to shutter schools in the event of increased COVID-19 transmission, which resulted in thousands of school closures later in 2021. 

Among other changes union officials secured, according to the report, was the inclusion of language authored by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten that made it harder for schools to staff up for reopening.

Ms. Weingarten wrote guidance accepted by the CDC that called for schools to allow teachers and other staff to remain working remotely or take other assignments if either they or someone in their household was at high risk or increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19. 

The policy, Ms. Weingarten wrote to White House staff, should be made in consultation with medical and human resources  professionals “keeping in mind Equal Employment Opportunity concerns.”

Union officials also succeeded in adding a line stipulating the CDC school opening guidance would be updated or changed if “a new variant” of the coronavirus emerged. 

Republicans said the collaboration contradicts a longstanding practice of keeping draft guidance confidential and pointed to the $43 million unions gave to Democrats during the 2020 election cycle.

“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,” said House Republican Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana and Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the Oversight Committee.

Mr. Scalise also served as the ranking member on the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

GOP lawmakers said the Biden administration blocked CDC officials from answering questions from members of the committee about the extent of their collaboration with the teachers union.