By Andrew Trunsky
Randi Weingarten, president of one of the largest teachers’ unions in the country, is set to change course Thursday and call for the full reopening of schools by the fall.
“There is no doubt: Schools must be open. In person. 5 days a week,” Weingarten plans to say, according to a copy of her remarks obtained by The New York Times.
Weingarten leads the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT), one of the teachers’ unions that has been a primary barrier to the return to in-person learning. The union supported a lawsuit brought by Florida teachers against school reopening and criticized former President Donald Trump’s plan to return to in-person education.
Weingarten also supported a strike by the Chicago Teachers’ Union over the city’s planned return to in-person learning, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Protection said that the return to classrooms could be done safely. The union voted to defy Chicago Public Schools’ plan and said its teachers would not return until they were vaccinated.
Weingarten and the AFT strongly support President Joe Biden, and she praised an executive order he signed in January calling for “evidence-based guidance” from the Department of Education to assist with the reopening of schools.
In her planned remarks, Weingarten will acknowledge that the return is not “risk free,” according to the Times, but that the risks can be largely mitigated through a series of steps including increased handwashing, masking, and decreasing class sizes.
“The United States will not be fully back until we are fully back in school,” Weingarten plans to say. “And my union is all in.”
Weingarten is also expected to commit $5 million to help increase confidence in the return to classrooms.
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