In an interview last November, Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state and CIA director, called Randi Weingarten the most dangerous person in the world.
Ms. Weingarten is the head of the powerful American Federation of Teachers union, and Mr. Pompeo’s assessment notwithstanding, President Biden’s secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, just appointed her to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s school safety council.
According to Mr. Mayorkas, the council will advise the department on school safety and help it “counter the evolving and emerging threats to the homeland.”
Ms. Weingarten is known for her successful efforts to keep schools shuttered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Long after most other nations had reopened their schools, despite evidence that showed that children were less vulnerable to the virus, and without any regard for the obvious ways that closing schools would harm children’s education, exacerbate race- and income-based learning gaps, and adversely affect children’s physical and mental well-being, Ms. Weingarten continued to insist on keeping the doors closed.
In the fall of 2020, for example, Ms. Weingarten argued that it was “reckless, callous, cruel” to reopen public schools. And emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests show that Ms. Weingarten and the AFT, her union, used their political power to persuade the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to delay reopening schools.
While that might have been what some teachers wanted (there were also many teachers who recognized the need to get students back to the classroom), the results were abysmal for America’s children. On June 21, the Department of Education released the “Nation’s Report Card,” comparing pre-pandemic test scores from 2019 with 2022 test scores.
In reading, scores fell 4 points, and in math, they plummeted, falling 9 points in just a few years. Thirteen-year-olds especially suffered, seeing their math scores fall by the single greatest amount in half a century.
Sadly, educational gaps also widened, particularly in math, as the lowest-performing students’ scores fell by twice as much as those of the highest performers.
Teachers unions hold much of the blame—Ms. Weingarten and the AFT in particular.
Given the unequivocal damage that her “keep schools shuttered” response to the COVID-19 pandemic has done to a generation of children, it’s outrageous that she’s been appointed to a council tasked with providing recommendations on “safety and security,” “emergency management” and “preparedness measures” in schools.
But Ms. Weingarten hasn’t been nominated to the council because of her credentials, of course. Rather, the Biden administration has once again prioritized the AFT’s political power above students’ lives.
With her new seat on the council, Ms. Weingarten will only further prove Mr. Pompeo’s point: Her “woke” political agenda is a source of emerging homeland threats rather than a solution to them.
Indeed, as he put it in his November interview: “If our kids don’t grow up understanding America is an exceptional nation, we’re done. If they think it’s an oppressor class and an oppressed class, if they think the 1619 Project, and we were founded on a racist idea—if those are the things people entered the seventh grade deeply embedded in their understanding of America, it’s difficult to understand how [Chinese dictator] Xi Jinping’s claim that America is in decline won’t prove true.”
Even if President Biden and his cronies are ignorantly unaware of how dangerous “woke” ideology is to our country’s future, Americans are not. Indeed, surveys have found strong opposition from parents to radical orthodoxies such as critical race theory and radical gender ideology.
That special interest groups such as teachers unions obsess over “woke” politics may have taken educators’ attention away from reading, math and other core subjects, but not parents’ attention.
That’s why conservatives must champion education choice. Parents can and should have options outside their assigned traditional schools. Policymakers in states including Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Utah and West Virginia provide options so that nearly every child in their state can choose a private school or even pursue learning pod options that helped so many families during the pandemic.
Lawmakers in other states should follow their example. And Congress, which has jurisdiction over military bases in the nation’s capital as well as tribal lands, should do the same and provide these opportunities to students in these areas.
In the meantime, the Biden administration should stop prioritizing special interest groups that help get Democrats elected above families, children, and America’s future. Otherwise, America won’t be strong enough to sustain itself, much less defeat its enemies.
This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times