Teachers unions influenced last-minute CDC school guidance, received copies before public release, emails show

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Received a copy of the guidance before it was made public by the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, CDC

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The nation’s most powerful teacher unions impressed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over last-minute changes to school-reopening guidance, an email reviewed by Granthshala News shows.

Records further show that the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, the two largest teacher associations in America, received a copy of the guidance before CDC released it to the public. The guidance included a phased reopening approach for K-12 schools based on coronavirus cases in the region.

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“These documents are further evidence that instead of following the science, the White House and the CDC allowed politics to influence policy,” Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of the American for Public Trust, told Granthshala News.

Sutherland’s group received E-mail as part of an ongoing lawsuit against the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services and provided them to Granthshala News. The group filed the suit after the government failed to provide records on the decision-making process regarding school guidance.

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CDC tightens masking guidelines after threats from teacher unions, show email

The latest batch of emails shows a last-minute press call by teachers union officials to rewrite school guidance hours before their publication.

The AFT’s senior director of health issues, Kelly Trautner, emailed CDC Director Rochelle Valensky on February 11, just a day before the CDC publicly posted the guidance.

Within the email, Trautner suggested the CDC put the line: “If high-community transmission results from a newer version of SARS-CoV-2, a new update of these guidelines may be necessary.”

The email led to a flurry of movements from highly placed CDC officials. On February 12, CDC Chief of Staff Sherry Berger flagged Trautner’s suggestion for a “possible follow-up”.

Minutes later, Valensky sent an email to Henry Walke, CDC’s director of preparedness and emerging infections, who replied, “Yes, will work with the team.”

Shortly after, Valcke emailed Valensky with updated language for guidance.

“Super, thanks for doing that,” replied Valensky.

The newly released emails also show CDC officials coordinating the early issuance of final guidance to teacher unions.

“Greta and the team will arrive at NEA/AFT this evening to set up technical discussions with both groups tomorrow to talk through CDC’s operational strategy,” CDC’s executive associate director, Christopher Jones, wrote on February 11. 1130 pm so they have time to digest before releasing at 2 pm.”

“When you talk to them this evening feel free to make that proposal and say CDC will teach you to set it up later tonight,” he continued.

Valensky replied: “Exactly. Will do. Will try to reach them before I board. Thanks!”

The next day, February 12, Jones said HHS was comfortable with him sending the strategy and fact sheet to the unions at 1:45 p.m.

Jones thanked NEA President Becky Pringle and AFT President Randy Weingarten for their continued partnership and input. Jones attached a PDF version of the posting strategy that day along with a fact sheet that was banned until 2 p.m.

The CDC, AFT and NEA did not respond to requests for comment.

The new emails come on the heels of reports highlighting close coordination between teacher unions, the White House and CDC officials on school reopening and masking guidance.

CDC quietly removes school guidance to eliminate masks, rolls back COVID-19 prevention efforts

In the days leading up to the deadline included in the latest batch of emails, the top union brass was already in the process of actively lobbying for a number of changes to CDC guidance.

“Thank you for Friday’s rich discussion about upcoming CDC guidance and for your openness to suggestions made by our president, Randy Weingarten, and AFT,” Troutner wrote in an email on Feb. New York Post Reported by email provided by APT.

That email also referred to the AFT as a “idea partner” of the CDC.

“We were able to review a copy of the draft guidance document over the weekend and were able to provide some preliminary feedback to several employees this morning about possible ways to strengthen the document,” Trautner said. “We believe that our experiences on the ground can inform and enrich the thinking about things that are practical and prudent in future guidance documents.”

At the time of the guidance’s release, Valensky said it was free of political involvement.

“I can assure you that it is free from political interference,” she said on February 12, according to CBS News. CBS wrote, the remarks were “a swipe at the previous administration”.

Granthshala News reported that the Biden administration later tightened the masking guidance after threats from teacher unions. APT also received emails showing behind-the-scenes communications on the masking guidance.

Sutherland told Granthshala News that the CDC and HHS last Thursday admitted to failing to search for emails arriving at school reopenings and only searched emails sent from government accounts.

The error means that emails sent to the monitoring group do not include all emails from teacher unions sent to government officials.

Instead, it only includes communications from teacher unions forwarded in emails from government accounts.

The error, Sutherland said, is likely to result in “hundreds of emails not operational.”


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