State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley, who heads the Bay State’s K-12 systems, has ordered school districts to bring students from pre-K to 5th grade back to classrooms for full-time instruction by April 5. Middle schools are scheduled to reopen on April 28.
The emergency legislation, proposed by Democrat state Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa and James Hawkins, would block Riley from requiring school districts reopen for in-person learning before April 26.
The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts, and the Boston Teachers Union welcomed the proposed legislation, saying it would allow more teachers and other school workers to receive COVID-19 vaccines before returning to in-person work. COVID-19 is the disease the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus causes.
“This whole process is being rushed, being pushed by unelected bureaucrats who are out of touch with reality,” Merrie Najimy, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, told the Boston Globe. “They don’t understand the amount of change that has to happen in the next couple of weeks to be ready.”
Over the past week, the teachers’ unions have been pushing back against Gov. Charlie Baker’s vaccine distribution plan. Under the plan, the state’s seven mass vaccination sites will offer the first shot of the two-dose vaccine exclusively for K-12 teachers and school workers on four designated weekend days between March 27 and April 11.
In a joint statement, leaders of the unions criticized Baker, a Republican, for not allocating more vaccine doses toward teachers, accusing the Baker administration of “pitting one vulnerable group against another” and undermining their “efforts for a timely and safe return to in-person learning.”
According to the statement, the unions didn’t want to “skip the line” or be prioritized ahead of the sick and elderly, but were asking the state to classify teachers as essential workers so that they have the same vaccination priority as “firefighters and nurses.”
In response, Baker’s office said that teachers don’t need to be vaccinated to return to in-person work.
“More than 80 percent of school districts are already teaching students in-person or hybrid,” Baker spokesperson Sarah Finlaw said in a statement to The Associated Press on Sunday. “Months of data from right here in Massachusetts and countless studies from world-class medical organizations have made clear that schools are safe for in-person learning.”
“No legitimate public health or medical organization, nor the CDC, recommends vaccinating all teachers before reopening schools,” Finlaw said.