Before Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf issued guidance for fall 2020 school reopenings, teachers unions in the state met with members of Wolf’s administration.
According to a report by Broad + Liberty, top aides in the Wolf administration met twice with the Pennsylvania State Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), as well as members of unions. Wolf’s chief of staff Mark Brunelle and deputy chief of staff Eric Hagarty were in attendance at the meetings, which took place on July 31 and Aug. 7 and were titled “Re: School Reopening.”
Only three days after the second meeting, Wolf issued guidance on Aug. 10 that caused school districts throughout the state to conduct online schooling.
More than 500 districts in the Commonwealth were identified by the administration as being in a “substantial transmission rate” region, resulting in a recommendation for fully remote school. The new guidelines from the Democrat administration resulted in schools swiftly changing course. District plans in Lehigh Valley show schools moved to being remote on Aug. 10. The Pennsylvania State Education Association, a major union based in Harrisburg, was one of the first groups to commend the Wolf administration upon the issuing of the new guidelines.
“These new reopening measures are guidance for our schools, and I strongly encourage all schools in Pennsylvania to follow them,” said Rich Askey, the president of the group.
Both Democrat and Republican state legislators opposed Wolf’s guidelines. Democrat Andy Dinniman, a former state senator, voiced the concerns of Pennsylvania school leaders, who worried that they might fall into legal trouble if they ignored the state’s guidelines and were unable to obtain insurance. “How could they defend themselves if anything happened?” Dinniman asked.
AFT also came under scrutiny when it was reported this month that First Lady Jill Biden hosted AFT President Randi Weingarten as well as National Education Association President Becky Pringle for a meeting a day before President Joe Biden was inaugurated. Weingarten sparred with Fox News host Martha MacCallum last week, blaming former President Donald Trump for unions working to shutter schools.
AFT did not return a request for comment. It has not been confirmed whether the Pennsylvania governor attended the meetings with the unions, though documents confirm his staff did. Broad + Liberty found that Wolf did not have anything else scheduled at the time of the first meeting.