The Bulletin Board

In reversal, state’s NEA chapter supports COVID vaccine requirement for teachers

By: - August 13, 2021 2:31 pm
An empty classroom

The NEA said that nearly 90 percent of its members had already been vaccinated. (Dave Cummings | New Hampshire Bulletin)

The New Hampshire chapter of the National Education Association is supporting a vaccine requirement for teachers, reversing an earlier position as cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 continue to climb.

In a statement Friday, NEA New Hampshire said that its board members agree with the national NEA’s decision Thursday to announce support for a vaccine mandate for teachers.

New Hampshire board members voted Friday to support the policy “with no dissent,” the state chapter said. 

In announcing the new stance, the national NEA, the largest teachers union in the country, cited a desire to keep classrooms open to in-person learning, and listed vaccines as the strongest tool to do that.

“As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates, it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe, and they must be coupled with other proven mitigation strategies,” said Becky Pringle, the NEA’s national president. “Appropriate employee accommodations must be provided, and paid leave and readily available sites should be available for vaccinations.”

The announcement is a reversal for both the state and national branches of the teachers union. 

In July, NEA New Hampshire President Megan Tuttle said the chapter would not support vaccine mandates for students or teachers.

“NEA New Hampshire has always advocated for vaccinations to be available, but it really is being left up to the educator or the parents of the child to decide whether they want to get the vaccination or not,” Tuttle said then. Tuttle did not provide comment Friday. 

National NEA leaders had also shied away from recommending a mandate through much of the summer, insisting up until Thursday that schools should urge vaccinations but that the decision should be voluntary. 

Teachers have overwhelmingly chosen to receive a vaccine. In its announcement Thursday, the national NEA said that nearly 90 percent of its members had already been vaccinated. A separate national survey from the EdWeek Research Center – conducted from late July to early August – found that 11 percent of teachers surveyed said they don’t intend to get vaccinated. 

Meanwhile, COVID-19 vaccine mandates for teachers are rare, but picking up steam. The state of California announced Thursday that it would require vaccinations for all school employees. Chicago Public Schools said Friday that it would mandate vaccines for its staff as well. 

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Ethan DeWitt
Ethan DeWitt

Ethan DeWitt is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s education reporter. Previously, he worked as the New Hampshire State House reporter for the Concord Monitor, covering the state, the Legislature, and the New Hampshire presidential primary. A Westmoreland native, Ethan started his career as the politics and health care reporter at the Keene Sentinel.