* Longtime President of the American Federation of Teachers
* Former President of the United Federation of Teachers
* Opposes school vouchers and charter schools
* Lifelong Democrat & member of the DNC
* Accuses Republicans of seeking to defund public education
* Supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement
* Embraces the tenets of Critical Race Theory
Born to Jewish parents in New York City in 1957, Rhonda “Randi” Weingarten grew up in nearby Rockland County, New York. Her father, Gabriel, was an electrical engineer, and her mother, Edith (maiden name Appelbaum), was a school teacher. According to Weingarten, two “seminal events” that occurred when she was in the eleventh grade caused her to develop an early interest in labor-union activism. Those were: (a) when she accompanied her mother and stood on the picket line during a seven-week teachers’ union strike, and (b) when she administered a survey in an effort to prevent $2 million in local school-budget cuts that would have caused a number of teachers to be laid off. “The drivers’ ed teacher would have lost his job,” Weingarten recalled in a 1998 interview. “I got together with a bunch of kids and we went to the school board and we convinced them to let us do a survey. We were convinced some of them thought there were too many cuts. And we were right.”
As a college undergraduate, Weingarten worked as a legislative assistant for the New York State Senate Labor Committee. She graduated with a B.S. degree in Labor Relations from Cornell University in 1980, and then earned a J.D. from Yeshiva University’s Cardozo School of Law in 1983.
From 1983 to 1986, Weingarten served as an attorney for a Wall Street law firm named Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. She also worked as an attorney in the real estate department of Wien Malkin and Bettex.
From 1986 to 1998, Weingarten worked at New York’s powerful United Federation of Teachers (UFT), a 130,000-member affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). She was named UFT’s Secretary in 1995, and its Treasurer in 1997. She also served all 12 of her UFT years as counsel to the union’s then-President, Sandra Feldman, a former member of the Young People’s Socialist League. In her role as counsel, Weingarten became UFT’s primary contract negotiator on behalf of union teachers.
Also during her tenure with UFT, Weingarten worked as an adjunct professor at Cardozo School of Law from 1986-1991, a Board Member and Chairwoman of the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York from 1990-1995, and a teacher at Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn from 1991-1997 — where she taught Law, Ethical Issues in Medicine, AP Political Science, and U.S. History and Government.
In addition to her duties with the United federation of Teachers, Weingarten was elected to serve as Vice President of the UFT’s national affiliate, the AFT, in 1997. She would go on to hold that AFT post for the next 11 years.
When Sandra Feldman left the UFT and became President of the AFT in 1998, she named Weingarten as her top choice to serve as the UFT’s Acting President until June 30, 1999, the scheduled end of Feldman’s term. Consistent with Feldman’s wishes, the UFT’s 90-member Executive Board voted in favor of having Weingarten serve out the rest of Feldman’s term.
In 1999 Weingarten was formally elected, by an overwhelming margin, to serve a full term of her own as UFT president.
Weingarten would subsequently win re-election as UFT president three more times during the decade – in 2001, 2004, and 2007.
In 1999, Weingarten opposed a New York state law which authorized the creation of 100 new charter schools, alleging that the statute would siphon vital funds away from the public school system’s budget.
Following the release of film director Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for “Superman” — a 2010 documentary examining the decline of American public education — Weingarten, who appeared in the film, critiqued its mostly positive account of charter schools: “Guggenheim makes only glancing reference to the poor achievement of most charter schools, despite the abundance of independent research showing that most charter schools perform worse than, or only about as well, as comparable regular public schools.”
In May 2014, the Center for Union Facts’ affiliate website, LaborPains.org, published a piece noting that Weingarten and her union allies had consistently opposed the proliferation of charter schools as alternatives to underperforming public schools. Said LaborPains: “Weingarten also lashed out (again) against charter schools. Weingarten tried to make charter schools, which have improved educations for numerous families, seem like a conspiracy hatched by the Wal-Mart heirs. Weingarten raved that the Walton family’s charitable arm is ‘trying to create an alternative system and destabilize what has been the anchor of American democracy.’ The Walton Foundation is trying to give parents more choices about where they want to send their students. Since unionized public schools often fail, many parents choose charters. For Randi and her radical union, that’s a bad thing.”
In a speech she delivered to AFT’s annual TEACH (Together Educating America’s Children) conference on July 20, 2017, Weingarten argued that the charter and school-choice movements were motivated by the same brand of racism that had once motivated white racists to create private but publicly funded schools in order to resist integration in the 1950s. “This privatization and disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation,” she said. “We are in the same fight, against the same forces who are keeping the same children from getting the public education they need and deserve.” Moreover, Weingarten urged those attending the conference to read On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century — a book by Yale professor Timothy Snyder, who regularly likened Trump to Adolf Hitler and accused the U.S. president of having “normalized” Nazism.
In an October 2007 speech which she delivered while accepting an award from the Empire State Pride Agenda, an organization advocating on behalf of LGBT issues in New York, Weingarten publicly revealed that she was a lesbian. In the course of her remarks, she accused “the right wing” of “trying to use constitutional amendments to bar gay marriage as a way to motivate their base.” Resolved to oppose such amendments, Weingarten stated: “I would not lead a union that considered me a second-class citizen.”
At that same award ceremony, reported The New York Times, Weingarten also discussed “the importance of role models for young gay people,” “When we make a public declaration of our sexual orientation,” she said, “when we say that we are proud members of this community, mountains move. Just that simple act helps create hope, opportunity and voice for the thousands of brothers and sisters who still think they must hide.”
During Weingarten’s years at the helm of UFT, expenditures on public education in New York City soared dramatically. According to Reason magazine: “From 1998, when Ms. Weingarten took over as president of the UFT, to 2009, when she stepped down, per pupil spending soared to $19,789 from $8,944, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office. That is a 121% increase, driven largely by increased wages and benefits for increasing numbers of unionized teachers. And most of it is funded not by the state or federal government but by New York City taxpayers.”
In July 2008, Weingarten was elected President of the AFT. “We will build on this union’s great tradition of confronting injustice, embracing the excluded, questioning conventional wisdom, challenging the status quo—and working 24/7 to improve the institutions where our members work,” she stated upon her election.
Weingarten stepped down from her position as UFT President on July 31, 2009, to focus exclusively on her duties as head of the AFT.
Under Weingarten’s leadership, the AFT dramatically increased its political spending. In 2008 — her first year at the helm — the union spent some $15 million to support Democratic candidates in state and federal campaigns. That number subsequently increased to $20 million in 2014, $37 million in 2015, and over $44 million on donations and lobbying activities in 2016.
In 2008, Weingarten stated that school vouchers – designed to enable low-income parents to send their children to high-quality private schools rather than to local public schools with poor academic track records — “siphon scarce resources from public schools.”
In May 2017, she co-wrote an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times that said: “[T]he facts show that where vouchers have been put into practice on a meaningful scale, they hurt student learning. In April, the research arm of the Department of Education released a study of the federally mandated voucher program in Washington. It showed voucher students did worse in math than similar public school students, and it adds to a growing body of education research that concludes that vouchers may harm rather than help student achievement.”
In May 2021, Weingarten tweeted: “Vouchers drain important resources away from already under-resourced public schools.”
Following Senator Hillary Clinton’s decision to join the Obama administration as Secretary of State in early 2009, the Democratic governor of New York State, David Patterson — whose duty it was to appoint someone to fill the vacant U.S. Senate seat theretofore occupied by Mrs. Clinton — reportedly narrowed his list of potential nominees down to two candidates: Randi Weingarten and Kirsten Gillibrand. Ultimately, he selected Gillibrand.
In March 2009, Weingarten — a lifelong Democrat and a member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) — lavished praise upon the newly installed President Barack Obama, saying: “We finally have an education president. We really embrace the fact that he’s talked about both shared responsibility and making sure there is a voice for teachers, something that was totally lacking in the last eight years.” Obama’s “very broad, comprehensive, and thoughtful agenda,” she added, would be highly beneficial to America’s public schools and the teachers who worked there.
In November 2009, Weingarten relocated from Manhattan to the Long Island village of East Hampton. The move “had nothing to do with [Manhattan’s high] taxes,” she claimed. “I don’t even think about it.” While “I’m sure there are people who do stuff for tax reasons,” Weingarten added, “I think we should be paying taxes, and I pay a lot of them.”
In the December 22, 2010 edition of The Nation, Weingarten co-authored a piece criticizing the recently-ended George W. Bush administration for having pursued “silver-bullet solutions, such as small schools, high-stakes testing, and performance pay for teachers—some of which have no evidence of their effectiveness—while ignoring the more substantive issues that have much more influence over the quality of education.”
Weingarten has long condemned the U.S. educational system’s “fixation on testing and data over everything else” as “a fundamental flaw in how our nation approaches public education.” “The fixation on high-stakes testing hasn’t moved the needle on student achievement,” she said in a 2015 statement. “Testing should help inform instruction, not drive instruction. We need to get back to focusing on the whole child — teaching our kids how to build relationships, how to be resilient and how to think critically.” That same year, Weingarten also said: “People who claim to be market-based reformers want to sell the theory that there is a direct correlation between test scores, the effort of teachers and the success of children. It just ignores everything else that goes into learning.”
In December 2010, after reports that students in China were significantly outperforming their American counterparts in math, science, and reading, Weingarten stated that “students pay a price” when “you don’t make smart investments in teachers, respect them or involve them in decision-making, as the top performing countries do.”
In January 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported that Weingarten had “received $194,188 last year from the United Federation of Teachers for unused sick days and vacation time accrued before she left to become president of the American Federation of Teachers, boosting her total compensation to more than $600,000 for 2010.”
In April 2011, Weingarten admitted that a speech which she had recently given, plagiarized an NY1 cable-television series about the many problems that continued to plague the $80 million computer system used by New York City’s schools. She said that while she herself had not written the speech in question, she understood that “the buck stops here.” “The speechwriter feels terrible, and I apologize,” added Weingarten.
In early 2012, Weingarten supported “The 99 Percent Spring” movement, which: (a) pursued objectives similar to those of the recently launched Occupy Wall Street movement, and (b) was described by the Huffington Post as “a coalition of progressive organizations from across the country … hosting more than 900 training sessions with the goal of educating 100,000 participants in old-fashioned, in-your-face, direct-action protest techniques.”
In September 2012, Weingarten served as a New York delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Following the November elections two months later, she celebrated President Obama’s re-election as well as additional Democrat victories in key races nationwide. “Thousands upon thousands of our [AFT] members,” boasted Weingarten, “made phone calls, knocked on doors, and reached out in every way they could to get their families, friends, and neighbors to the polls on Election Day—an effort that contributed not only to President Obama’s re-election, but also to victories in key Senate, House, and gubernatorial races across the country.”
In an article titled “Voting Jewish Values”—published in late October 2012, just days prior to that year’s presidential election—Weingarten accused Republicans of seeking to starve the nation’s education system of the funds it needed in order to thrive and succeed:
“It should come as no surprise that the latest Gallup poll shows that President Obama is carrying a 70-25 percent lead over [Republican candidate Mitt] Romney among Jewish voters…. There’s a reason for this—and no, it’s not simple political affiliation. Jewish voters tend to choose Democrats because they care about Jewish values like tikkun olam, repairing the world; tzedek, justice; and rachamim, compassion. The only connection one can draw between these fundamental Jewish values and the policies proposed by Gov. Mitt Romney and [vice presidential running mate] Rep. Paul Ryan is that they oppose each other at virtually every turn. And no aspect of their plan better illustrates this than the Republicans’ proposals for our nation’s education system. […]
“Which specific aspect of the Romney-endorsed Ryan budget is the most antithetical to the Jewish commitment to public education? It’s hard to choose just one. Perhaps it’s the projected $5.3 trillion (yes, you read that right) reduction in overall spending … Or perhaps it’s the $2.7 billion in cuts the vice presidential candidate recommends for Title I programs that provide educational services for disadvantaged students in high-poverty school districts, risking the jobs of as many as 38,000 teachers.
“Or maybe it’s the dramatic slashes—approximately $170 billion over 10 years—that the Romney-endorsed Ryan budget recommends for Pell Grants, which provide crucial aid to more than 9 million of the nation’s most financially needy students so they can pay for college….
“Jewish voters’ opposition to cutting $2.2 billion for educating children with disabilities—which would lead to lost jobs for 30,000 special-education teachers—is understandable. So is their opposition to a Ryan budget that could result in the removal of 191,000 at-risk pre-schoolers from Head Start, which gives educational, health, nutrition, and social-service support for families most in need….
“Our [Jewish] community has always placed a premium on education, and we understand that shortchanging our children is the opposite of what our history has taught us. That’s why we see that Jewish support for President Obama is growing as the disconnect between Republicans’ policies and Jewish values become increasingly clear. And on education, the distance between the two candidates couldn’t be greater.”
After the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that left 28 people dead, Weingarten referred to the National Rifle Association’s proposal to equip schools with armed police officers as “irresponsible and dangerous.” She also wrote that “[s]chools must be safe sanctuaries, not armed fortresses.”
In 2013, the New York Observer named Weingarten one of the most influential New Yorkers of the past 25 years. Similarly, Washington Life Magazine included her on its “Power 100” list of influential leaders.
In 2018, Weingarten was named to Washington Life’s “Power 100” list of prominent leaders.
In 2021, Weingarten was included in the Washingtonian’s list of “Washington’s Most Influential People,” and in City & State New York’s “New York City Labor Power 100” list.
On October 8, 2013, Weingarten was arrested while participating in a massive rally of 20,000+ demonstrators — including thousands of unionists — who marched in Washington, D.C. to demand that Congress immediately pass comprehensive immigration reform. Specifically, the protesters called for the U.S. government to grant amnesty to virtually all illegal aliens nationwide and place them on a path towards citizenship. Other notable arrestees included eight Democratic members of Congress: Reps. John Lewis (GA), Luis Gutiérrez (IL), Raúl Grijalva (AZ), Keith Ellison (MN), Joseph Crowley (NY), Charles Rangel (NY), Al Green (TX), and Jan Schakowsky (IL).
In January 2014, Weingarten praised President Obama for having made reference to the teaching profession in the very first sentence of his State of the Union address. She said that by doing so, Obama had “highlighted the importance of educators and our schools in helping our children achieve their dreams.” Further, Weingarten stated that in order to achieve a prosperous economy and strong public schools, “[i]t starts with investing in early childhood education, making college affordable, making public schools the center of communities, and, equipping students with essential life skills and offering multiple paths to graduation and the world of work through rigorous career and technical education programs.”
In a December 2014 article she wrote for Jezebel.com, Weingarten briefly detailed a rape attempt which she had experienced years earlier. She then called for the passage of legislation proposed by Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to better protect sexual assault victims on college and university campuses. “But more than policy,” Weingarten continued, “we must all help change our culture. One in four women will be sexually assaulted in college. Sadly, only a tiny fraction of the victims will file a report, in part because our culture tells them that they are to blame—the same culture that has kept me from speaking out for nearly 30 years. If we want to change that culture and combat sexual assault, we must take it on together. We must speak out together.”
1) Lift the Floor for Working People:
2) Support Working Families:
3) Tax Fairness:
On July 7, 2015, Weingarten and Democrat Senator Al Franken co-authored a CNN.com piece titled, “What Congress Must Do for LGBT Kids.” “Inexcusably,” they wrote, “there is still no federal law that explicitly prohibits the bullying of kids based on real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.” Invoking the struggles of “LGBT youth,” the co-authors exhorted lawmakers to enshrine sexual orientation into federal anti-discrimination law: “In America, it is illegal to bully a child because of his or her race, ethnicity or disability. Let’s extend those protections to our LGBT students, who are among the most bullied. Not only is it commonsense — it’s the right thing to do.”
In July 2015 as well, Weingarten and the AFT officially endorsed Hillary Clinton for U.S. President. A close friend of Mrs. Clinton, Weingarten referred to her as “a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities.” “She’s ready to work with us to confront the issues facing children and their families today,” added Weingarten, “including poverty, wage stagnation, income inequality and lack of opportunity.”
In October 2015, Boston magazine noted the apparent irony in a recent Weingarten tweet that called for removing the “unlimited flow of secret money into elections.” According to the publication, the AFT in 2013 had “quietly channeled $480,000 through an intricate series of transactions” from an anti-[Republican] Chris Christie group (One New Jersey) to a political action committee (One Boston) supporting the Democratic nominee for Boston mayor, Marty Walsh. Boston magazine alleged that One Boston had “significantly” helped Walsh “in the home stretch of an extremely close election,” and noted that “AFT’s involvement in the funding of the ads was not revealed until well after the election.”
In an August 2016 interview with The Hechinger Report about the upcoming U.S. presidential election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, Weingarten claimed that “60 years after…Brown v. Board of Education, we are more highly segregated than desegregated.” She also warned that “the other guy” in the presidential race — meaning Trump — “is a dangerous demagogue who would just cut education.” By contrast, Weingarten claimed that Mrs. Clinton, if elected, would “use the bully pulpit nationally to actually fix, not destabilize, public schools in cities like Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit.”
Just days before the 2016 general election, Weingarten emailed Democrat activists to warn about the dire consequences that a Trump presidential victory would have:
“The person we elect on Nov. 8 [Election Day] will tell young women whether America believes that women deserve dignity and respect. And if Donald Trump wins, it will tell young men that demeaning, degrading and even assaulting women is just fine.
“We work hard to teach our students and our own children it’s what’s inside and what we do in the world that count. But how can they believe we’re serious if we elect a president who says he doesn’t treat women with respect, demeans women for their physical appearance and brags openly about sexual assault?
“Trump isn’t the first person to demean women on a national stage, but if we elect him president, we send a clear message—especially to young people—that this conduct is perfectly appropriate and that women don’t deserve to be treated as equals. …
“Hillary Clinton has spent her life fighting for inclusion and respect for women and girls. She went to China in 1995 and declared, ‘Women’s rights are human rights.’ She has fought for women and children her entire adult life—for things like equal pay, family and medical leave, pre-K through college education, child care and children’s health, community schools and reproductive rights. And as secretary of state, she did this for women and girls across the world.
“That’s the kind of leadership we need—not more of the toxic narcissism Trump carries so proudly. Young women don’t need a president who doesn’t respect them, and young men don’t need a president who shows them that misogyny is just fine.”
In February 2017, Weingarten attacked the Trump administration’s decision to scrap an Obama-era guideline that had permitted “transgender” students to use whichever public restroom they felt was consistent with their “gender identity.” “By rescinding these protections, the Trump administration is compromising the safety and security of some of our most vulnerable children,” said the AFT leader. “Reversing this guidance tells trans kids that it’s OK with the Trump administration and the Department of Education for them to be abused and harassed at school for being trans.”
In a speech she delivered to AFT’s annual TEACH (Together Educating America’s Children) conference on July 20, 2017, Weingarten, lamenting the fact that Donald Trump was the President of the United States, said: “The moment we’re in is the result of an intentional, decades-long campaign to protect the economic and political power of the few against the rights of the many. It has taken the form of division—expressing itself as racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.”
In an August 2017 interview with Salon.com, Weingarten stated that in the 2016 presidential race, Donald Trump had “used racism and sexism to create fear” in the hearts of the voters in his political base. “I believe Trump gave people permission to voice their anger and their fears,” she added, “as opposed to what most presidents do, which is to move us to our higher angels.”
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s infamous death at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer in May 2020, Weingarten co-signed a July 2020 letter along with more than 150 journalists, writers, academics, and activists in response to the incident. Said the letter: “The forces of illiberalism are gaining strength throughout the world and have a powerful ally in Donald Trump, who represents a real threat to democracy.” Among the letter’s noteworthy signatories other than Weingarten were Noam Chomsky, Todd Gitlin, John R. MacArthur, Gloria Steinem, Zephyr Teachout, Cornel West, and Fareed Zakaria.
Following Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential race, Weingarten asserted that Mrs. Clinton had lost because the U.S. was not “ready to have a female president.” Consequently, added Weingarten, Clinton had experienced “an intensity of hatred that male political figures never get.”
In April 2018, Weingarten spoke at New York’s “National School Walkout,” where students left their classrooms en masse as means of calling for an end to “gun violence.” In the course of her remarks, she exhorted those under the age of 18 to register to vote in political elections as soon as they became eligible to do so. “We need you to walk into the voting booth and vote,” she shouted, making it clear that young people’s ballots should be cast for Democrats who opposed “the gun lobby.”
On July 19, 2018, Weingarten issued a statement condemning a newly passed Israeli law which established that “the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.” “This despicable law,” she said, was a sign of “anti-democratic and nativist actions”:
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has proposed—and by a slim majority the Israeli Knesset has passed—a so-called nation-state law that repudiates the democratic, egalitarian and pluralist values on which the state of Israel was founded. It is a giant leap backward for the people of Israel. It is anti-Arab and anti-minority, and it embodies a bigotry and authoritarianism that I fear was energized and emboldened by the current U.S. president [Trump].”
At a February 27, 2019 press conference on Capitol Hill, the Congressional Progressive Caucus formally unveiled its “Medicare For All” legislation. Addressing those in attendance, Weingarten said: “We know we must take this on now. Health care costs have become an issue in every collective bargaining agreement for two decades – and an issue in the recent teachers’ strikes.”
In July 2020, Weingarten strongly opposed efforts by the Trump administration to reopen schools while the coronavirus pandemic was still actively spreading through the population. Claiming that “[t]heir [the administration’s] goal isn’t safety, it’s politics,” she warned that without “proper safeguards,” educators would “retire early, quit, or take a leave at the very same time kids need these experienced teachers.”
After Joe Biden’s victory in the November 2020 presidential election, however, Weingarten, who served as an elector for the State of New York, reversed course vis-à-vis her stance on school re-openings. In December 2020, she praised Biden’s plan to reopen most schools within the first 100 days of his administration. “All I can say is hallelujah,” the AFT leader said. “We finally have a president-elect who understands that we need resources and strong public health measures in order to reopen school buildings.”
In August 2021, Weingarten, who previously had been in favor of permitting school teachers to decide for themselves whether or not to get vaccinated against coronavirus, reversed her position entirely. “Vaccines are the single most important way of dealing with COVID,” she now declared. “We’ve always dealt with, or since 1850, we’ve dealt with vaccines in schools. It’s not a new thing to have immunizations in schools. And I think that on a personal matter, as a matter of personal conscience, I think that we need to be working with our employers, not opposing them, on vaccine mandates and all their vaccine policies…. [V]accination is a community responsibility.”
On October 31, 2022, Weingarten tweeted her support for the sentiments expressed in an Atlantic magazine article in which economist Emily Oster had advocated in favor of an “amnesty” for all those who, during the COVID-19 pandemic, had pursued misguided policies that resulted in harm to children. “Given the amount of uncertainty, almost every position was taken on every topic,” wrote Oster. “And on every topic, someone was eventually proved right, and someone else was proved wrong.” Weingarten – who had supported extensive school closures, forced masking for children, and mandatory vaccinations — tweeted in response: “I agree with @ProfEmilyOster on this.”
After his 2020 election victory, Biden gave strong consideration to Weingarten as a candidate for Secretary of Education.
Under Weingarten’s leadership, the AFT in 2021 passed a Resolution titled “Making Black Lives Matter in Our Schools,” which echoed the values and priorities of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Resolution read as follows:
WHEREAS, the United States has come to a historic moment of reckoning with the systemic racism that has long plagued it, dating back to the enslavement of Africans forcibly brought to our shores in 1619, as a result of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks and so many others, and the powerful protest movement that has taken shape in their wake; and
WHEREAS, as educators, it is our particular responsibility to make schools into welcoming and nurturing environments for our students by eliminating from them all forms of racism that harm the well-being and damage the educational development of Black students; and
WHEREAS, to this end, it is essential to reform the school disciplinary codes, regulations and practices that negatively and disproportionately impact Black students, contributing to a school-to-prison pipeline in which youth are criminalized; and
WHEREAS, to this end, it is essential to develop inclusive curriculum and employ culturally responsive pedagogy that reflects the full diversity of our students, especially the historical experience and heritage cultures of Black students; and
WHEREAS, to this end, it is essential to transform the American teaching force to better reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our students, so that Black students have the same opportunities to be taught by teachers who can serve as inspirational role models as white students have; and
WHEREAS, the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks have focused national attention on pervasive police violence against Black people, and on the militarization of policing which too often makes police into an occupying force in the communities they should protect and serve; and
WHEREAS, while education, healthcare and other vital social services have borne the brunt of government policies of austerity and inadequate funding for the last half century, police and law enforcement budgets were often held harmless and even increased: Policing now consumes far too much of discretionary funds of state and local governments; and
WHEREAS, to the extent that school discipline and safety has been under the control and direction of police, it has detrimentally impacted students of color:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers affirms its historic commitment to ending systemic racism in American society, and to removing all manifestations of that racism from America’s schools; and
RESOLVED, that to achieve these goals, the AFT will work with organizations committed to ending systemic racism in American society, such as Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, and the NAACP, and with organizations committed to ending racism in schools, such as the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools; Black Lives Matter at School; Facing History, Facing Ourselves; and Teaching Tolerance; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT calls for an end to “zero tolerance” and other disciplinary policies that contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline and the criminalization of Black youth; and
RESOLVED that the AFT supports the separation of the necessary function of school safety from policing and police forces: school security personnel should be trained as peace officers and integrated within the school community, with a focus on nonviolent resolution of conflicts with a minimal use of force; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms its support for the development of inclusive curriculum and culturally responsive pedagogy that reflects the diversity of our students, especially the historical experience and heritage cultures of Black students; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms its support for the diversification of the teaching force and for initiatives designed to recruit, prepare and retain Black teachers and other teachers of color, such as career ladders, teacher education programs in HBCU institutions and public colleges and teacher residency programs; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT affirms its support for community schools that provide a full array of guidance, health and social services to promote the well-being of students; and
RESOLVED, that the AFT supports a reordering of the budgets of state and local governments to provide essential resources to education, healthcare and other social services.
On July 27, 2021, Weingarten penned a CNN.com opinion piece in favor of teaching the tenets of Critical Race Theory (CRT), an academic discipline which maintains that: (a) society is divided along racial lines into (white) oppressors and (black) victims, similar to the way Marxism frames the oppressor/victim dichotomy along class lines; and (b) America is permanently racist to its core, meaning that the nation’s legal structures are, by definition, racist and invalid. “Culture warriors are suddenly labeling any discussion of race, racism, discrimination or struggle as critical race theory in an attempt to drive a wedge between Americans and prevent the full and accurate teaching of the American Experiment,” wrote Weingarten. Although “it’s a contrived uproar over something that is not even taught in elementary and secondary schools,” she added, “we need to know the unvarnished truth about our history so we can do better.” “My union, the American Federation of Teachers, will defend any member who gets in trouble for teaching honest history,” pledged Weingarten. “We have a legal defense fund ready to go. And we are preparing for litigation as we speak.”
During a July 2021 broadcast of the MSNBC program Deadline: White House, Weingarten condemned a newly passed Texas law that, by her telling, “basically says that teachers are supposed to say that slavery is a betrayal of the founding principles of our country.” “Now, you know that that’s not true,” Weingarten continued. “I mean, there’s lots of great founding principles of our country, but slavery was embedded in the Constitution.”
In a September 2021 appearance on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports (hosted by Andrea Mitchell), Weingarten denounced Republican governors who were ending mask mandates in the schools of their respective states. “We’ve got to get these governors to stop their madness, stop their irresponsibility,” she said. “They are morally reprehensible for not allowing and for making us have these fights about mask mandates.”
In 2022, Weingarten opposed parental-rights bills in Florida and other states that had passed laws giving parents greater access to: (a) school curriculums, and (b) personal information regarding their children.
On the April 14, 2022 episode of the Rick Smith Show — a pro-union talk program with a leftwing orientation – Weingarten said the following about those two statutes: “This is propaganda. This is misinformation. This is the way in which wars start. This is the way in which hatred starts.”
In May 2022, while Texas was considering the passage of a “parents’ bill of rights” that would ban some LGBT content from classroom lessons and discussions, Weingarten said: “What is worse right now is that they [parents] don’t trust us [teachers], particularly in Texas, which is where they’ve banned books and stopped kids from talking about, you know, who they are, and their sexuality…. So what we need to actually do is we need to tell them, if you trust us so much to carry a gun, why don’t you trust us to do what our work really is? Trust us to be the mind workers. We’re not the body armor people. We are the mind workers. We are the ones who try to help our kids critically think and know themselves and feel good about themselves.”
Weingarten was outraged when Republican U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in August 2022 proposed an amendment to, as he put it, “try and force Soros-backed prosecutors to put dangerous criminals in jail.” The “Soros backed prosecutors” to whom Rubio referred were district attorneys who: (a) had been elected with financial help from the left-wing multi-billionaire George Soros, and (b) had subsequently pursued a radical “criminal justice reform” agenda that called for a great deal of leniency in the treatment of criminals – e.g., by advocating alternatives to incarceration for a wide range of offenses. On August 7, 2022, Weingarten tweeted that Rubio’s remarks were anti-Semtic: “THIS Is how anti semitism takes root and spreads. What is a ‘Soros’ backed prosecutor? Soros is a Hungarian Jew who survived the Holocaust.. Orban the authoritarian leader of Hungary demonizes Soros all the time in Orban’s culture war to suppress freedom & democracy.”
In August 2022 as well, Weingarten took to Twitter to support a Minneapolis School District policy stating that, in situations where school staff cuts were necessary, white teachers — rather than their nonwhite colleagues — should be laid off first. Said the policy: “[I]f excessing a teacher who is a member of a population underrepresented among licensed teachers in the site, the district shall excess the next least senior teacher, who is not a member of an underrepresented population.”
Weingarten objected strongly when Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, launched a campaign in 2022 to purge books and lessons promoting the tenets of Critical Race Theory and radical gender ideology from all public-school curricula in his state. In response to the governor’s initiative, Weingarten in April 2023 created a hotline called “Freedom to Teach and Learn,” where people could report instances of “book banning” and challenges against curricula. Accusing “MAGA lawmakers” of “us[ing] culture wars to divide communities and … drain resources from public education,” Weingarten said of her hotline: “It’s a place to call if you’ve been told to remove a book from the curriculum or from the library, if you’ve been told that there are topics that can’t be discussed in your classes or that you cannot teach honestly and appropriately, or if politicians in your district or state are targeting vulnerable student groups to score political points.”