SACRAMENTO — Governor Gavin Newsom plans to announce Wednesday that California will require all teachers and school staff to be vaccinated or undergo regular Covid-19 testing, the first such requirement in the nation amid growing concerns about Delta variants , according to sources familiar with the plan.
Under the policy, school workers should show proof of vaccination to their districts. The move comes after three major California districts announced similar requirements on their own Tuesday and just two days after American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten expressed support for such a mandate.
The plan was described to POLITICO by sources not authorized to speak ahead of a Wednesday morning press conference at a Bay Area school. Until now, the recall-threatened governor has not required vaccinations for teachers for the next academic year.
The state’s two main teacher unions — the California Teachers Association and the California Federation of Teachers — support the plan, sources said. CTA reports that nearly 90 percent of its members have been vaccinated, based on a survey in March.
“We’re not shy about leaning into that space because of the importance of getting this disease behind us, but when it comes to schools, we’re confident in the approach we’re taking,” Newsom said at an elementary school event last week. in San Bernardino when asked about the prospect of a teacher vaccine mandate.
California has seen an increase in Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations this summer as the Delta variant took root and the state reopened its economy on a large scale.
The Democratic governor faces a recall election in less than five weeks, and he has shown no willingness to close businesses again, while insisting that schools remain open for full in-person instruction this academic year. Newsom demands that all students wear masks in school — a stance criticized by Republican recall candidates — but he doesn’t require people to wear masks at indoor businesses.
Newsom previously imposed vaccine-or-test requirements for state employees and an outright Sept. 30 mandate with limited exemptions for health workers.
Districts in San Francisco, Long Beach, Oakland and Sacramento announced Tuesday that teachers must show proof of vaccination or undergo regular testing for Covid-19 as their campuses reopen this month. They join San Jose Unified, which announced the same requirement last month.
“Long Beach is now the only major city in [the] state where all city, college, school district and state university officials are mandated,” said Mayor Robert Garcia in a tweet, noting that Long Beach Unified, which enrolls about 70,000 students, is the largest district in California to make the decision so far.
“All public institutions in the state and country should be doing the same,” Garcia added.
San Francisco Unified and Sacramento City Unified announced similar policies on Tuesday, with support from their unions. Together, the two districts represent approximately 15,000 employees and more than 100,000 students.
“As we all personally return to school buildings, we are pleased to enthusiastically welcome students and families and ensure the safest conditions amid this ongoing pandemic,” Cassondra Curiel, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, said in a statement. a statement.
The state’s largest districts of Los Angeles, San Diego and Fresno do not require vaccines for teachers, but will be covered by the Newsom policy announced Wednesday.
“We are implementing several layers of safety, including, but not limited to, mandating periodic COVID testing for all students and staff, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, daily health screening, improved air filtration systems, the use of face masks and additional staff to clean. and disinfect the classrooms,” Los Angeles Unified spokesperson Shannon Haber said in an email.
At a Public Policy Institute of California event on Tuesday, Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the California State Board of Education, called the rules on vaccines or testing “a very smart idea.”
In an interview last week, Tony Thurmond, Chief Inspector of Public Education, said he is not against a mandate, but is concerned that vaccine requirements, which will likely have to be negotiated with unions, are inefficient as many schools race against the clock. Many counties in California have already reopened, while others will do so in the next three weeks.
“What I can do now is help more people get a vaccine,” Thurmound said, pointing to “vaccine city halls” and other outreach events hosted by the California Department of Education. “We literally pull out all the stops.”