The MTA issued the following press release today concerning the August 16 vote on vaccination requirements by the MTA Board of Directors:
The Massachusetts Teachers Association announced today that it is in favor of requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all employees and eligible students in public schools and colleges throughout the state. The MTA Board of Directors voted to adopt the position during an emergency meeting Monday evening.
The MTA believes that as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and the delta variant spreads, a vaccination requirement — with provisions and responsible accommodations negotiated locally under collective bargaining laws — is vital to the continuation of in-person learning in Massachusetts.
“We must do everything in our power to protect students, educators, public health, and all of our communities — including communities of color, which, because of structural racism, have been hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic,” said MTA President Merrie Najimy.
“By taking this step, the MTA continues to play a lead role in advocating for what we all want the most: to be in our classrooms with our students in a safe environment,” Najimy added. “Requiring vaccines for educators and eligible students is a reasonable measure to take for the common good.”
The motion approved by the MTA Board by a vote of 46 to 4 states: “We take seriously our responsibility to protect our students, preK through higher education, our members and their families, and our communities. While research indicates that educators already have high rates of vaccination, the MTA supports required vaccination of all education workers and eligible students in our schools and colleges. We also support regular COVID-19 testing in lieu of vaccination for those not yet eligible or those for whom vaccination is not medically advisable.”
“Requiring vaccines for educators and eligible students is a reasonable measure to take for the common good.”
Vaccinations must be accompanied by other precautions and building improvements, Najimy said. She emphasized that many children are too young to be vaccinated, that some adults remain vulnerable because of health issues, and that vaccination rates vary significantly between affluent communities and those with greater economic needs.
The MTA believes that such issues must be dealt with in local collective bargaining agreements, along with other questions particular to individual cities and towns. District and campus administrations must negotiate with educators’ unions over the specifics of vaccine requirements, ensuring that workers’ rights are protected in the process.
The MTA is also calling on Governor Charlie Baker, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education to live up to their responsibilities as school and college buildings reopen. Najimy noted that while the MTA Board has called for universal masking in public education settings to protect students, educators and communities, the state has refused to take a similar position.
“Official leadership has been absent as we prepare for the new school year,” she said.
The MTA, in accord with recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics, believes that in addition to full access to COVID-19 vaccinations, the state, school districts and campuses must guarantee the following:
- Upgraded ventilation systems that meet health and safety standards.
- Access to appropriate face coverings for all students and staff.
- Rapid and consistent access to COVID-19 testing for all students and education staff.
- Appropriate social distancing in education settings.
“Educators and our unions are doing everything in our power to ensure that public schools and colleges can open safely and stay open,” Najimy said. “We continue to be alarmed by the failure of state political leaders to follow our example — and their refusal to engage with other stakeholders during this critical time.”
While failing to call for universal masking, Baker and his administration have proposed allowing children who have been exposed to the virus to enter school buildings and have limited reporting about COVID-19 cases in the state in recent weeks. In addition, they have not discussed contingency plans for what will happen if the pandemic resurgence continues or worsens.
“It’s as if Governor Baker, Education Secretary James Peyser and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley have learned nothing over the past year and a half.”
“It’s as if Governor Baker, Education Secretary James Peyser and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley have learned nothing over the past year and a half,” Najimy said. “MTA members have spent that time calling for well-informed and researched approaches to make in-person learning as safe as possible. Now more than ever, the governor has an obligation to work with educators and other community members to develop responsible plans to avoid the chaos that did so much damage to all of us last year.”