Unearthed texts between teachers unions and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky reveal that the agency colluded with the unions to keep schools closed during the pandemic.

The text chains, obtained by the Fairfax Parents Association via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, reveal a comradeship between Walensky and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten and National Education Association (NEA) President Becky Pringle.

On February 11, 2021, AFT President Randi Weingarten sent CDC Director Rochelle Walensky a text about a New York Times leak containing the CDC’s new guidance for reopening schools. The guidance read: “At any level of community transmission, all schools can provide in-person instruction (either full or hybrid)” with “strict adherence to mitigation strategies”.

Weingarten was displeased with this, and complained to Walensky that the Times would be “running with a full speed ahead angle” to reopen schools.

WEINGARTEN: Hi. It’s Randi. We heard something from a NYT leak that seemed at odds with discussion. Do you have time for a call

WALENSKY: Hmmm. Argh. In a wall of meetings. Can touch base this afternoon. Are you able to ping what you learned?

WEINGARTEN: Randi: Yes… let me get

This was leaked by someone in agency to NYT: they are running with a full speed ahead angle.

The next day, the CDC issued guidance that allowed schools to close while claiming they were following CDC guidelines: “All schools have options to provide in-person instruction. . . . Middle and high schools in virtual only instruction unless they can strictly implement all mitigation strategies and have few cases.”

This pleased Weingarten, who put out a statement praising the CDC’s new guidance. She then texted a copy of the statement to Walensky and thanked her. It was the happiest Walensky had been the whole week.

WALENSKY: This gave me the biggest smile of my week. Thank YOU, Friend!

WEINGARTEN: 🙂 we will fuss a little on ventilation but I am so grateful

WALENSKY: Me too. Totally fair!

Other texts show an exchange between Walensky and NEA President Becky Pringle. On March 2, 2021, for reasons that are unclear, Walensky sent a smiley face to Pringle, who replied, “YES!!!!”

On March 18, Pringle texted Walensky to lobby for continued school closures, invoking “diversity”:

PRINGLE: Dr. Walensky, it’s Becky. Just got off the phone with your folks. I appreciate them making themselves available.  But I’m very concerned about timing and our ability to get the information I talked with you re: evidence gathered in more diverse settings (ESP. large urbans with greater density and where it is less likely those schools have proper ventilation. I am concerned about the resulting chaos that will prevent our schools from reopening safely because we didn’t do it right.

WALENSKY: Hi Becky, sorry for my delay and trying to break free to call. Will try you this evening…

PRINGLE: Thank you.

These texts not only reveal a familiarity between the CDC and the unions, but they also reveal another side to the collusion previously reported.

Emails obtained by the New York Post show that Weingarten heavily influenced the CDC’s school re-opening guidelines, which in some places included the union’s suggestions nearly verbatim. While the CDC had reportedly been ready to recommend that schools reopen safely, it changed its guidance dramatically to make no clear recommendation after talks with Weingarten.

The AFT head also reportedly joined the NEA in bullying the CDC to restore mask mandates for children regardless of vaccination status.

Nevertheless, Weingarten testified in April before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic that she never pushed for school lockdowns and mandates, instead insisting she has always been for in-school learning.