It’s time for Texas to prioritize public school teachers and staff

PHOTO: Shelby Tauber for The Texas Tribune 

The Texas State Board of Education wrote a letter asking the COVID-19 Expert Vaccine Allocation Panel (EVAP) to add public school teachers and staff to Phase 1B for vaccination priority. The letter cites the challenges that the public school system faces with increased in-person instruction during the pandemic. The letter also highlights the rise in teacher quarantines due to exposure to COVID-19 and the lack of substitute teachers as another key issue.

In an online conversation with the Texas Tribune Thursday, Morath encouraged districts to give accommodations to educators with health-comprised situations, but he stopped short on lobbying the EVAP for school-employee 1B status. Texas AFT President Zeph Capo responded: “We are extremely disappointed in Morath–who should be a chief advocate for educators–and his lack of leadership on vaccinations to keep us safe. He refused to say whether he thinks teachers should be included in the 1b tier for vaccinations, as the CDC recommends.”

More than half of all states are already vaccinating teachers in Phase 1B. The Center for Disease Control recommended that teachers be in the 1B population, but ultimately the states get to decide who is included. Click here to view an interactive map of which states are vaccinating teachers. 

Texas schools have been hit hard by the pandemic, with 104,365 cumulative student cases and 58,358 cumulative staff cases. Every day that passes without vaccine priority for public school teachers and staff is another day that is endangering lives. Several of our locals have reported member deaths since the pandemic began.  

Texas is behind many other states in vaccinations, with only 3.1% of the population fully vaccinated with both doses. The number for single doses is not much better, with only 9.2% of Texans on the first round. Our state leadership needs to kick vaccination distribution into gear and be sure to include public school teachers and staff as soon as possible. To follow the state’s vaccination rates by county and phase, click here

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