Randi Weingarten’s private phone call went off the rails.
The American Federation of Teachers boss was overheard plotting a shutdown of Puerto Rican schools during a train jaunt from Washington to New York, according to a report.
Hoping to hobble Puerto Rico’s recent push for charter school expansion, Weingarten warned that the move should not be characterized as a “strike” for public relations purposes, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
“We never use the word strike,” she stated during an Acela journey to Manhattan in a first-class cabin, according to the paper. “We are a human shield for the kids … teachers are doing this in the stead of parents and kids.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello recently signed laws that would enlarge Puerto Rico’s charter school sector and expand voucher programs.
Strategizing with an unknown associate on a phone call, Weingarten stressed that the operation must be carefully branded.
“We should be careful about the words we use,” Weingarten said, according to the paper.
“Let everyone call in for a personal day so they can’t open schools,” she said. “Let them call in for a sick day. They’re sick to death about the schools. They’re so anxiety-ridden about the schools.”
Weingarten said she wanted to associate the mobilization with recent walkouts over school labor conditions by teachers in Oklahoma and West Virginia.
She also referenced the deployment of lobbyists to assist with the plan, according to the paper’s account.
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The union leader, who has long combated school choice, ripped the paper for publishing her eavesdropped conversation.
“It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I would be talking about how to fight back against the attacks on public education in Puerto Rico and that educators want to act as a human shield to protect public schools and their students just as they’ve done in West Virginia and Oklahoma,” Weingarten told the paper. “It’s too bad whoever was listening to my phone conversation didn’t get it right and the Free Beacon would rather cover what people overhear on trains instead of what’s happening on the ground in Puerto Rico in terms of the school closings and the all out assault on public education on the island. What the governor is doing is destroying what the hurricane didn’t destroy and escalating the exodus. It is a catastrophe.”
Rossello’s legislation to expand charter schools comes after widespread school closures in the wake of Hurricane Maria.
“By backing closures, charter schools and so-called school choice, the governor and his education secretary are imposing chaos and sowing more instability for the families and communities vital to Puerto Rico’s recovery,” Weingarten said in a statement last week. “In their eyes, teaching, learning and economic recovery isn’t as important as feeding Wall Street vultures. We will fight this perversion of priorities.”
The AFT’s local affiliate has filed a lawsuit to block the legislation.
In endorsing the plan, Rossello said the introduction of charters would hack down bureaucracy and provide parents additional schooling options.
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