White House press secretary Jen Psaki rejected claims that a powerful teachers union influenced the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for reopening schools, in a press conference on Tuesday.
A reporter asked Psaki to respond to the allegations, particularly from Senator Tom Cotton, (R., Ark.), who said on Monday that “We shouldn’t have a politicized public health bureaucracy like the CDC answering at the beck and call of the teachers’ unions.”
“First of all, that’s false,” Psaki said. “It’s actually long-standing best practice for the CDC to engage with organizations and groups that are going to be impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency.”
Psaki added, “the CDC engaged with around 50 stakeholders that are on the front lines of this pandemic and have requisite perspective for the guidance.”
Psaki’s comments come following revelations that the American Federation of Teachers, one of the nation’s largest teachers unions, influenced CDC guidance on reopening schools, according to emails obtained by Americans for Public Trust and reported by the New York Post. For example, the CDC adopted language suggested by the AFT saying that “a new update of these [reopening] guidelines may be necessary” if a new coronavirus variant causes high community transmission.
The Biden administration has struggled to reopen schools following a year of closures brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, with much of the opposition stemming from teachers unions. Currently, 47 percent of U.S. school districts are open for in-person learning full time, with 48 percent operating a hybrid in-person and remote learning schedule and 4 percent still all-remote.
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