South Carolina GOP Sen. Tim Scott, a contender in the Republican race for the White House, took aim at American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on Wednesday after she likened school choice and parental rights advocates to segregationists who opposed the integration of schools.
“There might not be anyone that’s done more damage recently than Randi Weingarten to the kids living in distressed communities, especially like the ones where I grew up,” Scott told Fox News Digital. “It’s so frustrating to hear these liberal lies, hearkening back to a day that no longer exists.”
The comments from Weingarten – who serves as president of the second-largest teachers union in the United States, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – came during an interview released Tuesday that she took part in with the Burnes Center for Social Change.
During the interview, Weingarten likened school choice and parental rights advocates to segregationists in the 1950s who had taken issue with the Supreme Court’s ruling on Brown v. Board of Education, which found it unconstitutional to separate children in public schools on the basis of race.
“Those same words that you heard in terms of wanting segregation post-Brown v. Board of Education, those same words you hear today,” Weingarten told Seth Harris, a Burnes Center senior fellow. “I was kind of gobsmacked when I was talking with [the] Southern Poverty Law Center, and they showed me the same words – choice, parental rights.”
Words like those, according to Weingarten, are used as an “attempt to divide parents versus teachers.”
Scott, who has represented South Carolina in the Senate since 2013, told Fox he took issue with that claim.
“I’m so sick and tired of liberals – too many of them happen to be White – crying racism every single time they’re losing an argument,” Scott said. “I can’t think of anything more actually racist than trapping poor Black kids in the failing schools in these big blue cities dominated by a super-majority of radical progressives who are running the cities and destroying the schools.”
“They’re the ones, with their teachers unions, standing in the doorway of the schoolhouse, trapping poor kids in as if the house is on fire, but they won’t let a single soul out,” he went on. “It’s really frustrating, and it’s one of the reasons why I think we have no choice but to break the backs of these teachers’ unions. They’re the problem. They’re literally destroying the future of millions of kids.”
If elected, Scott said he would work to break the influence on schools from teachers’ unions and provide “choice in education” because he believes parents in America “deserve the choices that they need so that their kids have a chance to succeed.”
Scott reflected on the progress that’s been made in the last century to bridge racial gaps in America and said Weingarten and others who have similar beliefs within the teachers’ unions represent the “height of hypocrisy.”
Weingarten’s comments, however, did not mark the first time she’s claimed that certain school choice advocates of today are behaving like segregationists from days gone by.
In 2017, according to National Review, Weingarten declared during a union convention that “the real pioneers of private school choice were the White politicians who resisted school integration.” During the same event, she also reportedly referred to school-choice programs as being the “only slightly more polite cousins of segregation.”
In 2021, Weingarten was mocked for inadvertently making the case for school choice after she shared an article and praised a Michigan parent who chose to drive their child to school districts that had mask mandates during the pandemic.
“This parent chooses to drive her students to a school district that has a mask mandate. Masks save lives and limit the spread of #COVID,” Weingarten wrote on Twitter, now known as X.
School choice advocates joked they were pleasantly surprised Weingarten was suddenly taking up their cause, zeroing in on the word “chooses.”
Weingarten has also been repeatedly criticized for her efforts involving school closures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Weingarten testified before the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic in April to address her union’s role in influencing public policy on school lockdowns. In her testimony, she alleged that President Biden’s transition team was the first to contact her union for guidance on school closures during the pandemic.
Fox News Digital has reached out to a union spokesperson for comment.
Fox News’ Hanna Panreck and Jessica Chasmar contributed to this report.