WASHINGTON ― Randi Weingarten has been an outspoken surrogate for Hillary Clinton. She spoke at the Democratic National Convention in August, and her American Federation of Teachers was the first national labor union to make a presidential endorsement in the 2016 cycle.
The reason she’s so worried about Donald Trump, she told a small gathering of reporters Wednesday, goes far beyond what he would do to schools in this country. Think launching a war based on a bruised ego and fundamentally changing what it means to be president of the United States.
“The guy’s narcissism makes him so dangerous,” Weingarten said. “You have no idea sitting here whether he would get us into a war simply because he’s mad at someone. There’s not someone who’s been elected as president who is as mercurial, who is as dangerous, as what this guy says any day of the week.”
Weingarten has already heard from teachers around the country who are worried about what effect Trump’s rhetoric is having on students. A teacher in Dearborn, Michigan, for example, told her she had a student come up and ask whether she and her family will be deported.
In March, The Washington Post reported that third-grade students in Fairfax County, Virginia, told a child with darker skin that he would have to leave if Trump becomes president. And at a high school basketball game in Indiana, students from a predominantly white school chanted “Build the wall!” ― a Trump refrain ― when playing a predominantly Latino school.
“If the guy running for president mocks a disabled reporter the way he did, what do you do if you are a schoolteacher now after that? ... When we try in schools to stop bullying, to increase tolerance, to celebrate diversity, how do you have the president of the United States doing exactly the opposite? How do you create an environment that respects each other, that teaches people if that happens?” she asked.
Weingarten said AFT is considering having town hall meetings allowing teachers to step forward and testify about this “Trump effect” and what is happening in schools.
The labor leader has also spoken out about Trump’s $20 billion voucher proposal, which would use federal funds to create state-run block grants allowing students to enroll in private and charter schools. Weingarten said it would take away federal funds for low-income students, students with disabilities and other public school resources, as well as Pell Grants used to attend college.
“It’s the decimation of public education,” she said, “and no one should pretend it’s anything other than that.”
The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment.
Weingarten has already been talked about as a possible education secretary in a Clinton administration, but she said she wasn’t focused on that prospect and said it was “ridiculous” to speculate about it right now.
“My focus right now is on doing everything in our power to save our country and save civilization,” she said, “which means to get Hillary Clinton elected.”
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.