Is Randi Weingarten a real-life version of Marla Grayson?

Robert Fellner

Rosamund Pike is receiving much-deserved praise for her incredible performance as the protagonist Marla Grayson in the new Netflix movie, “I Care A Lot.”

Grayson is a con artist that preys on the elderly by manipulating the legal system to become their court-appointed legal guardian, at which point she forces them into assisted-living facilities so that she can take possession of their homes and other assets.

The sinister nature of the character is on full display in the scenes where Grayson feigns concern for her victims, like when she dupes the court into thinking she is someone who simply “cares a lot,” rather than a callous predator who profits by exploiting the vulnerable. Ms. Pike plays the part brilliantly, ensuring that the audience remains in a state of frantically rooting against such an infuriating villain for the duration of the film.

Thankfully, Grayson’s character is fictitious. But I was reminded of a similar type of duplicity when listening to a recent interview with Randi Weingarten, who the New York Times describes as “the nation’s most powerful teachers union president.”

As much as we can know anything, we know that keeping schools closed harms kids. This is why there is universal consensus among experts, ranging from the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and even UNICEF, among others, that schools should be reopened as soon as possible.

Yet, when asked the softball question of whether there is any point at which the damage from extended school closures is not reversible, Weingarten replied that, “No, I don’t believe that. I believe that kids are resilient and kids will recover.”

You get that? You could keep schools closed for the next 5 years and there wouldn’t be any lasting harm to kids, according to Weingarten. The boldness of that lie is on par with Marla Grayson’s claim that she is simply someone who cares a lot.

A seemingly endless number of studies reveal how missing school hurts students academically, mentally and emotionally. These studies were all conducted before the pandemic and referred to students merely missing too many days within a given school year, not missing an entire year or more.

A new study suggests that the harm caused by lockdowns and extended school closures, when fully accounted for, will be catastrophic. In just the first month after most states closed their schools, the number of reported mental health issues and acts of intentional self-harm in children aged 13-18 increased nearly 100%. It is horrifying to consider the scale of the damage that has occurred since then.

But trying to disprove Weingarten’s lie misses the point. Marla Grayson was never going to admit to her con, and neither will Weingarten. Teachers unions are only interested in increasing their political power and dues-paying membership, concern for student welfare is simply a front used to conceal this fact from the public.

And this helps explain why public schools have consistently failed our children — unions use their outsized political influence to ensure elected officials cater to their needs instead of doing what is best for students.

This has been the case for so long, in fact, that sometimes unions forget they are supposed to pretend otherwise. Take the Los Angeles teachers union, for example, which recently demanded a moratorium on charter schools, a wealth tax and a host of other political goals before they would agree to return to the classroom.

Being seen as an organization willing to leverage the well-being of children to achieve political gain is something most would want to avoid at all costs, yet teachers unions have become so comfortable with this dynamic that they appear to have forgotten how disturbing it looks to the rest of us.

Parents need to realize that teachers unions harm students. Whether it’s their opposition to charter schools and school choice programs, or making it harder to dismiss underperforming teachers, the net result is always the same: students suffer.

Asking unions to put kids first is like pleading with Marla Grayson to do the right thing: it simply isn’t going to happen. Those concerned with developing a student-first education system need to recognize this fact, and act accordingly.

Robert Fellner

Robert Fellner

Vice President & Director of Policy

Robert Fellner joined the Nevada Policy Research Institute in December 2013 and currently serves as the Institute’s Vice President and Director of Policy. Robert has written extensively on the issue of transparency in government. He has also conducted legal research and assisted in crafting legal arguments for numerous public records-related lawsuits, including one which prevailed at the Nevada Supreme Court, resulting in a landmark decision that protected and expanded Nevadans’ rights to access and inspect government records.

An expert on government compensation and its impact on taxes, Robert has authored multiple studies on public pay and pensions. He has been published in Business Insider, Forbes.com, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register, RealClearPolicy.com, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, ZeroHedge.com and elsewhere.

Robert has lived in Las Vegas since 2005 when he moved to Nevada to become a professional poker player. Robert has had a remarkably successfully poker career including two top 10 World Series of Poker finishes and being ranked #1 in the world at 10/20 Pot-Limit Omaha cash games.

Additionally, his economic analysis on the minimum wage won first place in a 2011 George Mason University essay contest. He also independently organized a successful grassroots media and fundraising effort for a 2012 presidential candidate, before joining the campaign in an official capacity.