Randi Weingarten says Republicans ‘just don’t want public schools’ in debate over education

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American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten said that Republicans “just don’t want public schools” during a debate over education Saturday on MSNBC.

MSNBC host Ayman Mohyeldin opened the conversation by suggesting Republicans are hoping to install speech codes in public schools and “ransack” local libraries, and use the power of the state “to punish any individual or private business that expresses opposition to parts one and two.” Progressive critics have lashed out at Republicans for targeting some controversial books dealing with race and gender. 

Mohyeldin asked Weingarten to “lay out the sheer breadth of Republican attacks on our public schools,” which he said went “far beyond” Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which has been misleadingly labeled the “Don’t Say Gay” law by critics, and other similar bills.  

Randi Weingarten says Republicans 'just don't want public schools' in debate over education

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said the "bottom line" was that Republicans "just don’t want public schools." (Reuters/Aaron P. Bernstein)

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Weingarten began by quoting a lecture by prominent critical race theory opponent Christopher Rufo, who recently spoke at Hillsdale College. She noted the title of the lecture was “Laying Siege to the Institutions.” 

“And I’m just going to read you one paragraph of what he said, and you will get it immediately. ‘To get to universal school choice, you really need to operate from a premise of universal public school distrust. To sow and grow that distrust, you have to create your own narrative frame, and have to be brutal, and ruthless in pursuing it,’” Weingarten said, quoting the lecture. 

Randi Weingarten says Republicans 'just don't want public schools' in debate over education

Ron DeSantis holds a rally in Orlando, Florida, during his campaign for governor on Nov. 5, 2018.
(Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

She added that the “bottom line” was that Republicans “just don’t want public schools.” 

“You know, Milton Friedman didn’t want public schools,” she said, adding that they wanted to have a choice for universal voucher systems. “But this time, they don’t even care if they have public education and they will brutalize anyone who is in their way,” she continued. 

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Weingarten said that Republicans were “sowing distrust” and said “that’s what the masks were about. That is what this whole issue around teaching artist history is about. That is what this is about terrorizing gay families.”

She said parents “need us to do everything in our power to help kids recover and thrive. And the teachers have done everything in their power to the last two years, to help kids recover.”

Randi Weingarten says Republicans 'just don't want public schools' in debate over education

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, speaks at a convention in Detroit, Michigan, on July 28, 2012. (Reuters)

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Weingarten said during an April 13 interview on “The Rick Smith Show” that legislation like Florida’s parental rights bill was the way “wars start.”

“This notion – we’ve been very lucky in America, and we in some ways live in a bubble for a long time,” Weingarten said. “This is propaganda. This is misinformation. This is the way in which wars start. This is the way in which hatred starts.” 

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