Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on Monday night tweeted out a story from the Detroit News about how parents are navigating the complexities of some school districts in Michigan mandating that children wear masks in the classroom while others don't. At the center of the story is a mother, Janine Fogg, who recently pulled her kids out of public schools in Brighton, Michigan, where masks are not mandated. Now, Fogg's two children attend private schools where masks are mandated for all students and staff.
Weingarten's take? "This parent chooses to drive her students to a school district that has a mask mandate. Masks save lives and limit the spread of COVID-19," she wrote.
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) October 4, 2021
Weingarten's overstating the efficacy of masking in the classroom, but she's shockingly 100 percent right about the merits of letting parents choose the school that they believe is right for their kids. She also may not have read the whole story, since Fogg isn't driving her kids to a "school district" that mandates masks but, rather, leaving public schools behind entirely.
That's a choice that lots of parents have been exercising during the pandemic. In the wake of COVID-related school closures, parents have been fleeing to private schools and state lawmakers have introduced dozens of bills to expand school choice options like charter schools and private school voucher programs. Polls show that clear majorities of both Democrats and Republicans support school choice.
Normally, Weingarten isn't a fan of giving parents more control over their children's education. She's attacked politicians who favor expanding charter schools and unfairly compared school choice advocates to segregationists.
Her union fought tooth-and-nail to keep schools closed during the first year of the pandemic, and unions have continued to be a major obstacle to full reopening even now that effective vaccines are readily available. Among other things, she's argued that schools should have to close for a single positive test and maintain social distancing of 6 feet, even after the overly cautious Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 3 feet of distance is just fine.
It's possible that the fight over mask mandates in schools has caused Weingarten to see the light and understand that parents know what is best for their kids. But that's unlikely. Instead, it seems like the politicization of mask mandates has caused Weingarten to temporarily forget that she believes one-size-fits-all schooling is the only way to go.
It's just another example of how the pandemic has exposed the hypocrisy of our national leaders and those who have undue influence over them. By Weingarten's logic, exercising school choice to send your kids to a private school where they will be masked all day is praiseworthy, but wanting to have greater school choice so your kids can get a better education (or any education while public schools are closed) is racist.