Randi Weingarten blasts ‘right-wing extremists’ for fighting ‘culture wars’ in conference speech
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American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten sounded off on “right-wing extremists” at the New York State United Teachers conference Wednesday, claiming public schools are “foundational” to American education and that conservatives are trying to “undermine” educators.
She called out Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, claiming that kids won’t become critical thinkers and learn lessons of life if they “get their way.” She claimed further that “schools are a way of creating pluralism and diversity” and “that’s why there’s censorship of books and lessons, and calling educators “woke.”
Last month, DeSantis and DeVos delivered speeches as keynote speakers at a summit held by a conservative parental-rights organization called Moms For Liberty.
The summit was a 3-day event to equip members from 30 states on how to elect more conservative candidates to school boards.
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At the summit, DeVos, a staunch school choice advocate, called for the Department of Education to be “ablished” in order to leave education decisions to state and local boards.
“These extremists are fighting these culture wars, and the attacks are only going to get worse. It’s a strategy to divide educators from parents, to create apathy and fear. These are the biggest tools they have to win,” Weingarten said, according to AFT.
“Right-wing extremists have said that the way to universal vouchers is to create universal distrust. But our members stuck with the union after Janus. And people around the country understand the importance of unions. That’s why they’re fighting these culture wars. “
Claiming “extremists” implemented a strategy to “divide educators from parents by “spreading apathy and fear,” Weingarten announced an “antidote.”
“What do parents want the most? They want their kids to learn & to be safe. That’s why we started our #ReadingOpensTheWorld program – to increase literacy and get kids excited about learning by giving out 1M books – and focus on community schools,” Weingarten said.
Lindsey Burke, director of the Center for Education Policy at the Heritage Foundation, pushed back on Weingarten’s comments, telling Fox News Digital that there is “widespread support for education choice among parents, and recent polling shows Americans now trust Republicans more than Democrats when it comes to education.”
“The unions lost parents’ trust when they forced schools to close down during COVID, long after it was clear it was safe for children to return to schools. And then they demanded tens of billions of dollars from taxpayers in order to reopen them. Families want schools that align with their values, and that’s why they have been pushing back against radical content in schools. Governor DeSantis has rightly recognized this, and has implemented policies to make schools more transparent and accountable to parents.”
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Furthermore, Weingarten sounded off on tackling issues such as canceling student debt and a mental health and food insecurity crisis in the US
“Thinking about ways to meet the needs of our kids, rather than endless conversations about who is ‘woke,’ is what we’re doing. That’s what parents want. What we need is for educators to be respected and to have the conditions we need to teach,” Weingarten said.
A survey commissioned by Weingarten herself found that Republicans have an advantage over Democrats in regard to voters’ confidence in handling education.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) commissioned a poll from Hart Research Associates, asking, “In general, do you have more confidence in the Democrats or in the Republicans to deal with education issues?”
The survey was conducted in seven battleground states where the results showed Republicans with a 39% to 38% advantage on which party voters trust more on education.
In reaction to the survey’s results, AFT President Randi Weingarten pushed Democrats to ramp up messaging against Republican attacks on critical race theory.
Conservatives have made significant gains across the country on the issue of education by highlighting CRT curriculum and by opposing COVID-19 related mandates and lockdowns. These issues have led to protests and recalls of school boards across the nation.
Republican elected officials in several states have sought to ban discussion of gender ideology and critical race theory in classrooms, particularly for young students.