The conversation about k-12 schools reopening is an opportunity to revisit essential vs. expendable workers.
Education Week data shows that in 20 states, teachers are not a profession given priority for the vaccine (See map below). We’ve been in this pandemic for over a year, and yet teachers who deliver education (learning), an essential service for productive and engaged citizens, are treated as expendable.
Figure 1. Map: Teacher Eligibility for Vaccines By State
In California, the state with the largest share of the teacher workforce-, 10%, teachers are eligible for the vaccine. However, counties administer the vaccine, but in some counties teachers are not yet eligible. Teachers will be eligible for the vaccine in Los Angeles County, the largest school district in California, beginning March 1. Table 1. Shows the states with the highest average daily COVID cases and teacher vaccine status. Texas has the highest number of daily average COVID cases reported, but Texas teachers are not eligible for the vaccine. Just under ten percent of the national teacher workforce reside in Texas, 9.7%, making Texas 2nd for the share of the teacher workforce which resides in a state.
The teaching profession is a pink-collar profession; most of the workers are women (See Table 2). Data collected on who has received the vaccine must consider the effect of occupation segregation when essential workers (occupations) are prioritized. Failure to do so will exclude many vulnerable workers and lead to inequitable access to the vaccine.
Lily Tomlin said, “I like a teacher who gives you something to take home and think about besides homework.”
We must vaccinate all teachers before schools open back up to make sure what teachers and students take home is not the COVID-19 virus.