Teacher union chief: Yeah, we can't wait for universal vaccination to reopen schools, but ...

On the other hand, Randi Weingarten doesn’t rule it out as a prerequisite either. The head of the American Federation of Teachers told Chuck Todd on yesterday’s Meet the Press that teachers badly want to return to work, but only when they stop being “scared” of the potential for catching COVID-19. She claims that it’s a “myth” that the unions oppose reopening the schools, but when Todd presses Weingarten on demands from the unions that schools remain shut until children get vaccinated — which will take years — Weingarten shifts to cheerleading for Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief plan:

“I want to debunk this myth that teacher unions, at least our union, doesn’t want to reopen schools,” Weingarten told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Teachers know that in-person education is really important. We would have said that pre-pandemic. We knew remote education is not a good substitute.”

“If the NFL could figure out how to do this in terms of testing and the protocols, if schools are that important, let’s do it,” she went on. “My members want it. They just want to be safe.”

AFT, which represents some 1.7 million educators, is one of the nation’s largest teachers unions.

“We have the highway or the roadmap that allows us to” reopen schools, Weingarten said, pointing to CDC guidance and resources included in President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief proposal, slated for a vote on the Hill this week. “It comes down to three things: the layered mitigation strategies, the testing so you can actually see asymptomatic spread, and vaccine prioritization.”

“Not that every teacher has to be vaccinated before reopening schools,” she went on, “but you should align that vaccination with the reopening.”

Todd wasn’t quite buying that, however:

CHUCK TODD: All right, you have outlined, you’ve said you’re not saying everybody has to be vaccinated before you go back, that there are mitigation strategies. But many of the local unions have made demands even more stringent than that. Do you still support those local unions to do that? You’ve had, you know, Fairfax County is saying they wouldn’t recommend teachers going back to school until all kids are vaccinated. Is that — and some people look at that and say, “Hey, they’re moving the goalposts.”

RANDI WEINGARTEN: Look, you know, what you’re seeing — first off, let me just also say again, you know, teacher unions are not monolithic. And, you know, we have two great unions and the NEA is a fabulous union, and Becky Pringle is a fabulous new president. But what you’re hearing when you hear that is that people are scared. And I think that what we need to do is we have to meet fear with facts, which is what we’re trying to do. So, we’ve had Dr. Fauci, for example, on two town halls. We’ve had a vaccine town hall with experts about that. And so, just like we are meeting vaccine hesitancy with facts and the evidence and the data, we need to do the same in terms of educators. What we’ve learned in our polling and also in our experience is that when people are actually in school with the protocols in place, they trust it more, and then you just have to educate people in terms of this way. 71 percent of our members are fearful that they’ll bring Covid home. Look, we’ve had 500,000 deaths, and we’ve had such grim realities here. But the teachers of this country understand that in-person education is really important. And so, ultimately, let’s do the kind of strategies we need. And the CDC, you know, I watched the CDC director on your show last week. They’re obvious what they are now, we have to just get them implemented.

That is the sound of goalposts being missed, if not shifted entirely. Nowhere in there does Weingarten even address Todd’s point about child vaccines, which might be as far off as a couple of years away.  The manufacturers did not include children in their trials, and for good reason — COVID-19 does not appear to affect children in the same way as adults, with some (tragic) exceptions. Those trials will definitely take place (if they have not already begun), but don’t expect the FDA to accelerate vaccine approvals for children in the same way they did for adults. They will want to be very careful about long-term impacts on children, especially very young children at pre-school and kindergarten ages.

In other words, nothing’s changed except the PR. Weingarten doesn’t even commit to support for full reopening if Biden’s relief/stimulus bill passes. Even though the science is abundantly clear, the teachers unions will continue to resist.