American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten is denying that she compared 1950s segregationists to school choice advocates after comments she made during an interview with the “Power at Work Blogcast” sparked outrage.
Referencing school choice supporters who have used “the same words” as those who opposed the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, Weingarten told host Seth Harris, a senior fellow at the Burnes Center for Social Change at Northeastern University, that “those same words you hear today.”
"I was kind of gobsmacked when I was talking to the Southern Poverty Law Center, and they showed me the same words, ‘choice,’ ‘parental rights,’ and attempt to divide parents versus teachers,” Weingarten continued. "At that point it was white parents versus other parents, but it’s the same kind of words."
🚨🚨Randi Weingarten likened parental rights and school choice advocates to segregationists:— Nicki Neily (@nickineily) September 13, 2023
She says the words “choice” and “parental rights” are the same kind of words that were used in reaction to school desegregation by opponents of the Brown v. Board of Education decision. pic.twitter.com/XDvP12pWbU
The comparison prompted outrage, including from GOP Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.
“I’m sick of liberals crying racism every time they’re losing an argument," he said. "I can't think of anything more racist than teachers’ unions trapping poor Black kids in failing schools in big blue cities. Randi Weingarten, you’ve done enough damage."
But in a statement to Fox News Digital, Weingarten claims she wasn’t comparing the two groups.
"I never made the comparison. I said I was gobsmacked that the same language was used. I was shocked by it precisely because I don’t see today’s parents that way," she argued. "I believe that parents and teachers are each others partners."
But that wasn't the first time she appeared to draw a connection. As the National Review pointed out in 2017 about her speech to the union's convention, she argued "the real pioneers of private school choice were the white politicians who resisted school integration" and called school-choice programs the “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.”