The Week In COVID, Schools & Education Policy: California First State To Mandate Vaccine For Teachers, Pediatricians Urge Faster Vax Approval For Youngest Kids And More

The Week in COVID, Schools & Education Policy: California First State to Mandate Vaccine for Teachers, Pediatricians Urge Faster Vax Approval for Youngest Kids and More

This is our regular update on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting schools and education policies, reviewed by AEI Visiting Fellow John Bailey. To access the complete archive, click here. Don’t forget to subscribe to Newsletter to receive this weekly roundup and daily updates directly in your inbox.

State and national leaders are advocating for teacher vaccine mandates.

California has become the first state to make it mandatory for all teachers and school staff to either receive the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has expressed his support for implementing vaccine requirements for teachers and other school personnel.

Dr. Anthony Fauci believes that it should be mandatory for teachers to get vaccinated.

Randi Weingarten, the President of the American Federation of Teachers, suggested on Meet the Press that the union’s leadership should consider enforcing a vaccine mandate for teachers in schools.

President Becky Pringle of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the United States, announced that the organization will back policies that either mandate vaccination or regular testing for teachers.

Monique Bourgeois, a preschool teacher, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine administered by Diane Kay. (Getty Images)

August 13, 2021 — The Major Developments

Pediatricians urge FDA to expedite vaccine approvals: The American Academy of Pediatrics has written a striking letter calling on the Food and Drug Administration to accelerate the authorization process for COVID-19 vaccines for children.

"In our opinion, the emergence of the Delta variant has altered the risk-benefit analysis for authorizing vaccines in children."

"The FDA should seriously consider granting authorization for these vaccines among children aged 5-11 years based on existing data from the initial enrolled cohort. Meanwhile, continuous monitoring of safety data from the expanded cohort in the post-market setting is necessary. This approach would ensure the timely approval of these essential vaccines for the 5-11 year age group."

"Given the scientific data currently available on COVID-19 vaccines and the knowledge gained from 70 years of vaccinology in pediatric populations, the academy believes that clinical trials with a two-month safety follow-up for participants in this age group can be conducted safely."

"Assuming the two-month safety data does not raise new safety concerns and the immunogenicity data supports their usage, we believe this is sufficient for authorization in this age group, as well as others. Waiting for a six-month follow-up would significantly impede efforts to curb the spread of the highly contagious Delta variant among children, as a decision on authorization would be delayed by an additional four months."

(Kaiser Family Foundation)

What Parents Think About Vaccines: The Kaiser Family Foundation’s "Parents and the Pandemic" report highlights important findings about vaccination.

"Hispanic and Black parents are more likely than white parents to express concerns that reflect obstacles to vaccination access, such as not being able to obtain the vaccine from a trusted source, concerns about out-of-pocket costs, or difficulties in reaching vaccination sites."

Parents are more supportive of mask mandates in schools than vaccine requirements.

Only 4 in 10 parents of children aged 12-17 report that their child’s school provided information about COVID-19 vaccines for children or encouraged parents to vaccinate their children.

"Twice as many parents report that their child is vaccinated when their school encourages vaccination compared to those whose schools do not (62 percent versus 30 percent)."

50 State Reopening Plans: The Center on Reinventing Public Education has assessed the fall 2021 reopening guidance of all 50 states and Washington, D.C.

Their updated state response database encompasses the crucial indicators that state and local leaders are grappling with as they prepare to reopen schools this fall. These indicators include state policies on mask usage, vaccine requirements, full in-person instruction, virtual learning options, and continuity of learning plans.

Federal Updates

White House:

According to Politico, President Joe Biden has described the actions of Republican governors who oppose mask mandates in schools as "a little disingenuous."

The Washington Post reports that the Biden administration is exploring the possibility of using unused stimulus funds to support educators in Florida who may be at odds with the governor’s ban on mask mandates in schools. Additional information is available from Reuters.

Fact Sheet: The Biden administration announces additional measures to ensure a safe return to in-person schooling for students.

Related: A transcript of a press briefing with White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona.

City & State News

Arizona: A teacher is filing a lawsuit against a school district for implementing a mask mandate despite the governor’s prohibition.


"An Arkansas judge has temporarily blocked the state from enforcing a law that prevents schools and other government agencies from requiring masks," reports the Associated Press.

As the school year approaches, parents are considering virtual learning.

Schools are taking legal action, and the mayor is defying the ban on mask mandates in Arkansas.


Parents in Florida have been granted the right to apply for vouchers and transfer their children to a different school if they perceive any form of "COVID-19 harassment" related to district rules on masking, testing, and isolation due to exposure. This emergency rule was approved on Friday.

Why Our School District is Defying Florida’s Ban on Mask Mandates – Even at the Risk of Losing Funding, an op-ed by Carlee Simon, superintendent of Alachua County Public Schools.

Illinois: The Chicago Teachers Union has stated that the Delta variant creates the possibility of a potential "pause in-person instruction." Among the issues currently under negotiation are:

– Improving ventilation systems

– Establishing a COVID-19 testing plan for both vaccinated and unvaccinated members of school communities

– Maintaining criteria and health metrics based on COVID prevalence to determine when to pause in-person instruction

– Ensuring full-time contact tracers, nurses, social workers, and counselors in every school building

– Implementing a comprehensive home visit program to engage students and families in every school

Kentucky: Governor Andy Beshear has issued a school mask mandate.

New Jersey: According to Chalkbeat, only 9 percent of Newark students met state math standards this spring. Similarly, only 11 percent of students met expectations in reading.

COVID-19 Research:

Children and COVID-19: New State-Level Data Report from the American Academy of Pediatrics

– A total of 4.2 million COVID-19 cases among children have been reported, representing 14.3 percent of all cases.

– Among states reporting, children accounted for 0.00-0.26 percent of all COVID-19 deaths, with seven states reporting zero child deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Need to Stop Confusing the Public – an article by Zeynep Tufekci in The New York Times.

"The CDC is still struggling with a lack of data collected too slowly, resulting in delayed responses and further exacerbating the problems caused by the pandemic. Epidemics spread rapidly, so delayed responses only make matters worse."

"While the Provincetown study highlighted the effectiveness of vaccines in preventing severe disease, it also emphasized the need to take the Delta variant seriously. This calls for expanding vaccine mandates, expediting formal approval of vaccines, intensifying vaccination efforts, and promoting mask use, especially in crowded and poorly ventilated areas with high infection rates and low vaccination rates."

"The CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service unit recognizes that communication plays a crucial role in managing a pandemic. Effective communication involves more than just choosing the right words. It requires a comprehensive approach that includes clarity of purpose, a realistic assessment of the situation, transparent presentation of detailed data, and a willingness to acknowledge uncertainty and provide reasoning behind precautionary measures."

The mRNA Vaccines Are Extraordinary, but Novavax Is Even Better – an article by Hilda Bastian in The Atlantic.

"The Novavax vaccine boasts a significantly lower rate of side effects compared to authorized mRNA vaccines. Recent data shows that only around 40 percent of Novavax recipients reported fatigue after the second dose, while Moderna and Pfizer had rates of 65 percent and over 55 percent, respectively."

"The lower rates of adverse events with Novavax are particularly important for parents considering vaccination for their children."

CDC Strengthens Its Recommendation for Pregnant Women to Get Vaccinated – A new CDC study found no increased risk of miscarriage after COVID-19 vaccination during early pregnancy.

"According to the new guidance, COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all individuals aged 12 and older, including those who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to conceive, or may become pregnant in the future."

We Studied 1 Million Students. This Is What We Learned About Masking – an op-ed by Duke researchers Kanecia Zimmerman and Danny Benjamin Jr. in The New York Times that sparked a debate.

"While vaccination is the best way to prevent COVID-19, universal masking is a close second. With proper masking, in-person learning is safe and more effective than remote instruction, regardless of community infection rates."

"In collaboration with North Carolina, the ABC Science Collaborative collected data from over 1 million students and staff members in the state’s schools from March to June 2021."

"We attribute the low transmission rate to the implementation of mask-on-mask protocols in schools, where both the infected person and close contacts wore masks."

Made to Save, an organization dedicated to improving access to COVID-19 vaccines, is actively working on a national education and grassroots campaign to save lives. They have developed various valuable resources to assist schools in the vaccination process. These resources include support for organizing vaccination events, encouraging individuals to share their vaccination stories, and providing a partner interest form for collaboration.

Additionally, the COVID Collaborative and Public Health Communications Collaborative have compiled a list of six effective ways that schools can promote COVID-19 vaccination. They emphasize the importance of prioritizing the reopening of schools and highlight the significance of teachers in leading this effort.

The Fordham Institute has released a report and a parent survey on the topic of social-emotional learning (SEL). While parents express overwhelming support for teaching SEL-related skills in schools, the actual term "social and emotional learning" is not widely recognized or favored. Interestingly, differences in opinions on this matter are often influenced more by political affiliation than other factors such as race, class, or religion.

An alarming number of children, approximately 1 million, have not enrolled in local schools due to the impact of the pandemic. This issue, known as the "Kindergarten Exodus," has been reported by The New York Times.

In light of the Delta variant and its impact on schools and child care, Emily Oster provides valuable insights on how to approach these concerns.

Lastly, on a lighter note, an amusing video is shared expressing a wish that the COVID-19 vaccine could miraculously enhance dancing abilities.

In case you missed them, The74 presents their top five stories of the week, covering topics such as pandemic recovery in Colorado Springs schools, the mask debate in relation to Florida’s mask mandate ban, space camp and STEM education, the neglect of history education in North Carolina, and the challenges faced by summer learning programs.

Please note that John Bailey is an advisor to the Walton Family Foundation, which provides financial support to The74.

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  • lindabarber

    I'm Linda Barber, a 29-year-old blogger and teacher. I'm passionate about writing and communicating ideas, and I love helping others achieve their goals. I also love going on adventures, learning new things, and spending time with my family and friends.



I'm Linda Barber, a 29-year-old blogger and teacher. I'm passionate about writing and communicating ideas, and I love helping others achieve their goals. I also love going on adventures, learning new things, and spending time with my family and friends.

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