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American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten faced criticism on social media Friday, following comments made by the union chief alleging teachers were overly burdened.
Weingarten called on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to release additional safety guidelines for schools and teachers in preparation for reopening schools in the fall.
The union head said the recent reversal of mask guidelines by the CDC has made teacher’s jobs harder as they navigate how to safely teach children under the age of 12 who are not yet able to be vaccinated from the coronavirus.
“Teachers are tired; they are exhausted. We have to find a way to repair and nourish them as well as families in terms of attracting and retaining our teaching force,” Weingarten said.
But parents angry with school closures took to Twitter to voice their frustration at her comments, pointing to what they viewed as inadequate Zoom teachings and jobs sectors that have long required in-person shifts.
“My kids are getting 2 hours twice a week in person,” one father wrote, commenting on the short teaching periods offered. “When it was Zoom it was 2 hours 4 days a week. They must be so exhausted.”
“I hope the teachers are ok,” he added.
Another person pointed to the long hours healthcare workers have been putting in throughout the pandemic.
“Why do public school teachers think they’re so special?” another social media user asked in a tweet. “Medical workers and grocery store workers need to be nourished and repaired too. You. Aren’t. Special.”
Others theorized that this was a strategy to allow teachers to bargain for higher wages and benefits – a belief held throughout the pandemic by frustrated parents.
In a Friday evening interview with MSNBC, Weingarten argued the CDC had put school officials in a tough spot.
“We don’t want to be the mask police. Please give us some guidance. Don’t make us make it up as we go along every single day,” she said.
Weingarten said the politics surrounding the coronavirus has prompted Republican-controlled states like Texas and Iowa, to lift all mask mandates even though children remain largely unvaccinated.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved kids ages 12-17 to receive the vaccine, but some are concerned about the vulnerability of younger students as schools reopen.
Weingarten pointed to the COVID variant plaguing India which is infecting an unusually high number of children.
But she argued that school officials and teacher‘s unions have been painted in a bad light for raising concerns, and said the guidance needs to come from the CDC.
“We have to be all in. It’s not time to do the blame game,” she said.
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