Republicans demand answers from CDC about emails with teachers union


House Republicans ​are demanding the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain its relationship with teachers unions — and whether they have influenced its guidance on school reopenings — following a report in The Post.

The top Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pointed to The Post’s report from Saturday that showed a flurry of email exchanges among CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, her top advisers and union officials, suggesting that the American Federation of Teachers weighed in on the federal agency’s school opening guidelines released in February. ​​

The emails “raise significant concerns about whether you, as the Director of the CDC, are putting politics over science and Biden-Harris campaign donors over children,” Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers​ (R-Wash.) wrote​ Wednesday​ ​in a letter ​to Walensky obtained first by Fox News.

Parents seen at a rally in NYC demanding reopen for in-class learning on May 1, 2021.
Parents seen at a rally in NYC demanding reopen for in-class learning on May 1, 2021.
Sipa USA via AP

“Such revelations also raise serious questions as to whether you are honoring your pledge to ensure CDC guidance is evidence-based and free from politics​,” she continued.

Rodgers, the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee, wrote the letter with Reps. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.) and Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), who are also members of the panel that oversees healthcare matters. 

Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers​ (R-Wash.) wrote a letter questioning Dr. Rochelle Walensky's motives of keeping schools closed.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers​ (R-Wash.) wrote a letter questioning Dr. Rochelle Walensky’s motives COVID-19 school reopening guidelines.
Andrew Harnik/AP

The letter said the emails “shed new light on your public about-face” on whether schools can reopen safely without teachers being vaccinated.

The Post obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request by the watchdog group Americans for the Public Trust. 

They reveal back-and-forth conversations between the CDC officials, AFT President Randi Weingarten and Biden administration officials leading up to the February release of the guidance.

Following the exchanges, the CDC released the guidelines that included two instances of language “suggestions” offered by the union adopted nearly verbatim in the final text. 

“The AFT’s priority is not focused on getting kids back to school, despite studies showing, with appropriate measures in place, in-person learning is safe,” the lawmakers wrote. “However, as the Director of the CDC, your decisions should be guided by science, not political interest groups.”

The three Republicans want answers about the communications involving the CDC, the AFT and the National Education Association and whether those exchanges influenced the guidelines.​​

People protesting school reopening in NYC on May 1, 2021.
People protesting school reopening in NYC on May 1, 2021.
Steve Sanchez/Sipa via AP Images

They also claim the “CDC was not forthcoming” ​with the committee when it asked for names of stakeholders engaged by the CDC in preparation for the guidelines.

The CDC ​said its conversations were routine.

“As part of long-standing best practices, CDC has traditionally engaged with organizations and groups that are impacted by guidance and recommendations issued by the agency,” Jason McDonald, a spokesman for Walensky, told The Post.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference.
Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, talks during a news conference.
Mark Lennihan/AP

“We do so to ensure our recommendations are feasible to implement and they adequately address the safety and wellbeing of individuals the guidance is aimed to protect. These informative and helpful interactions often result in beneficial feedback that we consider in our final revisions to ensure clarity and usability,” he said.

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