Credit: Andrew Reed/EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking at Carl B. Munck Elementary in Oakland. Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the State Board of Education, stands to the right of Newsom.
This story was updated with more details and reactions to the plan.

California on Wednesday became the first state in the nation to require all teachers and other school staff to be fully vaccinated for Covid-19 or be tested weekly, following in the footsteps of several of the state’s largest school districts.

“We think this is the right thing to do,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “It’s a sustainable way to keep our schools open, and it addresses parents’ anxiety that schools are doing everything in their power to keep kids safe and healthy.”

When Newsom announced the public health order Wednesday morning at Carl B. Munck Elementary school in Oakland, students were attending their third day of school amid a nationwide surge in infections due to the delta variant.

Newsom said it was a “series of conversations” with districts, labor unions and public health officials that led to the new requirement. California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd, California State PTA President Carol Green, the California School Employees Association and SEIU California Executive Board Member Max Arias all expressed support for the new requirement.

“Today’s announcement is an appropriate next step to ensure the safety of our school communities and to protect our youngest learners under 12 who are not yet vaccine eligible from this highly contagious delta variant,” Boyd said. “(It) provides an important alternative for those educators who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, while continuing to send a strong and clear message that every one of us — educators, eligible students, parents and staff — must be doing everything we can if we hope to win this fight against Covid and keep our schools open safely. The health of each one of us depends on the work of all of us.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, on July 26, said more than 90% of the national teachers union’s members were fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

Elisa Teel, who teaches Spanish at Argonaut High School in Amador County, said she supports the requirement since getting vaccinated is about more than just one’s own health — it’s about the health of the school community.

“Obliging people to be vaccinated is something that’s for everyone’s health, I would do it for myself as well as I would do it for my students,” Teel said.

The state stopped short of requiring school staff to be vaccinated last month, when Gov. Gavin Newsom announced July 26 that all state employees and health care workers would have to prove that they were vaccinated or get tested weekly. At the time, he said that since school staff were employed by their districts it would be up to each district to determine whether they would require vaccinations.

The requirement extends not only to public school employees but also to private and charter school employees. Districts will have until Oct. 15 to comply. It will be up to the district to enforce the mandate, but Newsom said he is confident that teachers and school staff will meet the new requirement. School staff must also show proof to their district that they are vaccinated if they say they are.

Newsom said state officials are keeping a “flexible mindset” and are willing to consider a vaccine mandate for school staff without the option of getting tested weekly, but that the vaccine-or-testing mandate was the “next appropriate step.”

Credit: Andrew Reed/EdSource

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf at Carl B. Munck Elementary in Oakland on Aug. 11, 2021.

Government and education officials, as well as union officials, commended the requirement Wednesday. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf called the decision “truly a show of leadership, not just from our governor but from our labor leaders.”

Schaaf said it’s particularly important in light of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statement Monday that the Florida State Board of Education could withhold district superintendents’ and school board members’ salaries if they require students to be masked in accordance with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance.

Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the State Board of Education, said she hopes the requirement will lead to even more Californians getting vaccinated, and said it is “critically important to making sure we have a joyful, productive and engaged school year in California.”

Said U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland: “It has been made very clear over the past year that there is no substitute for in-person learning. Our children — especially children from low-income communities — cannot afford to take steps back on their education after the difficult year that we just had. While some states are ignoring this public health challenge, and even banning masks at school, California, thank God, is taking the necessary steps to protect our children.”

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  1. Jim 1 month ago1 month ago

    Looks like Tony Thurmond finally emerged from his bunker after determining the shift in winds was likely to be sustained. “California should mandate vaccines for both students and teachers, said Tony Thurmond, state superintendent of public instruction, at a press conference Friday.” Tony really likes to lead from the distant rear.

  2. Jay 1 month ago1 month ago

    Representative democracies are the most successful with majority rule and a concern for minority rights. The harm of a mask mandate is minimal and temporary; the mask can be removed when the individual is done working or visiting a store. The harm of a vaccine mandate is much greater; people must be given the opportunity to choose as a vaccination cannot be reversed. Continue to inform people about the vaccine’s benefit without using scare tactics so … Read More

    Representative democracies are the most successful with majority rule and a concern for minority rights. The harm of a mask mandate is minimal and temporary; the mask can be removed when the individual is done working or visiting a store. The harm of a vaccine mandate is much greater; people must be given the opportunity to choose as a vaccination cannot be reversed.

    Continue to inform people about the vaccine’s benefit without using scare tactics so people can willingly make the best choice for themselves. Instilling fear will never have a positive long term result. CTA and NEA have no right to call for an educator vaccine mandate. They are to support the needs of educators whether they prefer to be vaccinated or prefer to not be vaccinated.

  3. Eileen 2 months ago2 months ago

    Testing? OK, but where will it lead?
    Mandatory vax? Medical tyranny. Ugh ugh. Let’s get this guy recalled.

  4. Araceli Justiniani 2 months ago2 months ago

    As an immigrant from Mexico who is a citizen and an educator, I don’t trust Newsom’s intentions regarding this vaccine mandate. If he cares so much about safety in schools, why did his political party opened up the borders and recklessly allowed Covid positive illegal immigrants into our local communities.

    This was not compassionate, it was irresponsible. We need leaders we can trust.

    Replies

      • Esther Valdes Clayton 2 months ago2 months ago

        The Governor’s latest requirement on our schools has nothing to do with the achievement gap between Latinos & white students, or the huge achievement & learning losses caused by his school. Closures. Gavin causes the harm, and produces “solutions” that only serve his political donors and not our students. I’m an immigration attorney and school board member and have witnessed first hand the damage done by the Governor’s closures of our schools. If he wanted to … Read More

        The Governor’s latest requirement on our schools has nothing to do with the achievement gap between Latinos & white students, or the huge achievement & learning losses caused by his school.

        Closures. Gavin causes the harm, and produces “solutions” that only serve his political donors and not our students. I’m an immigration attorney and school board member and have witnessed first hand the damage done by the Governor’s closures of our schools. If he wanted to drive down COVID-rates, he would cooperate with the other border state governors, like TX, AZ, and ask Biden to control the border. The recent lawsuit in federal court filed by border mayors shows a 35-40% COVID-19 positive rate. They are asking for a moratorium on releasing migrants because of the high rates of Covid exposure. The AP article shred above makes no mention of this, rather the attempts at containment, which are lax given that 1 million migrants have entered this year alone. Vote yes on the recall.

  5. Aaron 2 months ago2 months ago

    Vaccinated, yet still am tested every other week!

  6. Brenda Lebsack 2 months ago2 months ago

    Is this Newsom’s last attempt of totalitarianism before he’s recalled? It may start a revolt since the credibility of California governance is at historic lows.

  7. Alicia DeRollo 2 months ago2 months ago

    Vaccines will keep people alive, but won’t stop the spread. Weekly testing for all school personnel is what is needed to stop the spread.

    Replies

    • Jay 2 months ago2 months ago

      Could not agree more … mandatory testing for all school employees and make it available to students. The state already budgeted for it.

      As for CTA, they have already contributed $1.8 million to Newsom in the recall campaign.

  8. tomm 2 months ago2 months ago

    Call me suspicious, but is the Teachers Union getting something in return from our governor?

  9. Sharon Elizabeth Gallagher Tashjian 2 months ago2 months ago

    Bravo Governor Newsom ; keeping us all safe and stronger together! Thanks for taking the strong stand for the benefit of us all! God Bless our children and all the rest of us on this earthly journey!