The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced Tuesday that 80% of all teachers, school staff and childcare workers in the U.S. have received at least the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
Roughly 8 million pre-K through 12th grade workers had been vaccinated by the end of March, following President Biden’s March 2 directive to make all school staff and childcare workers eligible to receive the vaccine.
“Our push to ensure that teachers, school staff and childcare workers were vaccinated during March has paid off and paved the way for safer in-person learning,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Tuesday. “CDC will build on the success of this program and work with our partners to continue expanding our vaccination efforts, as we work to ensure confidence in COVID-19 vaccines.”
But despite the rapidly increasing number of shots administered to school officials, teachers unions have remained reluctant to have their members return to the classroom for in-person teaching.
Legal battles have popped up around the nation from San Francisco to Chicago, largely surrounding the issue of getting teachers back in the classroom for in-person instruction.
In late March, an agreement in Oakland, Calif., to reopen classrooms early for high-needs students, including homeless, foster and special needs kids, was rescinded after not enough teachers agreed to return to the classroom, despite cash incentives and vaccine prioritization.
Oakland teachers will be required to start in-person instruction on April 14, just three weeks after the district and teachers unions agreed to get instructors back in the classroom for select students.
But father of a southern California middle school student, Scott Davison, said that from what he has seen, it is not the teachers who are keeping schools from reopening, but rather union officials.
“I do think it is important to distinguish the attitude of the majority – the vast majority of teachers do not share the opinion of their union,” Davison, an attorney who helped launch a lawsuit under the Parent Association against six California school districts and the state, told Fox News. “I talk to plenty of teachers all the time, who eminently disagree with the take of their teachers union.”
“I think it is important to distinguish that these are union leaders that have political talking points and political agendas that are trying to demand benefits for them, that really go against what their calling is – which is to help students,” Davison added.
Davison is not alone in suspecting teachers unions have been driving the narrative and directing school teachers on how to act during this unprecedented time.
Last month, reports surfaced alleging Chicago teachers union officials directed teachers not to disclose whether or not they had received the vaccine.
Teachers in Chicago returned to the classroom after a tense public battle, but parents have suspected unions across the nation are using the pandemic as a bargaining chip for pay increases.
“It boils down to these negotiations with teachers unions and the district,” Jonathon Zachreson said told Fox News, noting that after combining each aid package passed by Congress, California has received $33 billion for school funding.
“This really has to do with poor leadership from Gavin Newsom. He effectively shut down schools at the behest of teachers unions during the summer,” Zachreson explained.
“These teachers unions are wasting time negotiating more funds, using our kids as bargaining chips,” he added.
While some schools have reopened in southern California following the suit brought forward by Davison, parents in northern California remain frustrated by the lack of state intervention.
San Francisco caught the nation’s attention after the city forced the district to take action by suing the Board of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District in a last-ditch effort to get schools reopened for in-person teaching.
While schools reopen in the Bay Area for hybrid learning, they are still under negotiations with the teachers unions.
Zachreson, who lives outside of Sacramento, launched one of the largest petitions in the country, calling on Newsom to mandate that all pre-K through 12 schools offer full-time in-person teaching – a measure that 14,000 parents in California have already signed.
Zachreson said that union officials are using “safety” as an excuse to keep schools operating under hybrid schedules to maintain their bargaining chip.
“What I believe is happening, they are going to continue to push with these models, these ridiculous hybrid models under the guise of safety, to negotiate more pay and benefits for their members,” he said Tuesday.
The CDC has said it is not necessary that every teacher and student be vaccinated before returning to the classroom, and noted that the adverse effects on children conducting virtual learning, outstrip the threat of transmitting the virus during in-school learning.
In February, the CDC director encouraged schools to start reopening by highlighting the significant risks children face in continuing their isolation, like a lack of education and food insecurity.
President Biden has said the nearly every American age 18 and up, can expect to be vaccinated by this summer. But parents remain concerned this will not change teacher unions attitudes in getting kids back in the classroom full time.