Minnesota’s largest teachers union fully supports mask mandates despite the vast majority of Minnesota educators being vaccinated for COVID-19.
In a recent interview with WCCO, Education Minnesota President Denise Specht estimated that about 90% of Minnesota educators are vaccinated.
“Nationally, we know that the numbers are about 86% of educators are vaccinated. I think in Minnesota it’s more like 90%, but that’s based on anecdotes,” Specht said. “We heard of a lot of people that wanted the vaccine, they got the vaccine, and they’re still getting them, so I think in Minnesota we’re talking about 90%.”
Despite this high estimate, Specht has said Education Minnesota fully supports masking in schools for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status.
Education Minnesota will “consistently and rigorously follow the guidance from state health officials and the CDC,” Specht said in a press release, noting that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics have both recommended that “students and staff wear masks in school.”
While she is disappointed in MDH’s decision to leave mask requirements up to individual school boards, Specht noted that MDH does recommend masking in schools.
The union also supports “quickly putting vaccine policies in place.”
While the state government does not have the authority to institute a vaccine mandate, Specht has made it known that the union intends on working with local school districts to negotiate “agreements around vaccination.”
Specht wants local unions to pressure their “employers to develop vaccination policies with the goal of persuading nearly all adults in schools to get vaccinated.”
“The best way to keep our schools safe and open this year is to follow the strategies recommended by state and federal health officials, including masking, vaccinations, appropriate ventilation, social distancing and handwashing,” Specht said.
Many Minnesota school districts have begun to implement mask mandates for students and staff just weeks before the 2021-2022 school year begins. The districts include Burnsville-Eagan-Savage, Rochester, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Mounds View, among several others.
One school nurse announced her resignation at a school board meeting earlier this month because she could no longer “harm the emotional, mental, or physical health and education of these children” with forced masking.
Just this week, 36 parent advocacy groups wrote a letter to the governor expressing their concerns with mask requirements in schools, citing the government’s “uninvited reign of destruction over the children of Minnesota.”
Megan Olson is a 2020 graduate of the University of Minnesota with degrees in political science and history. She works in public affairs in addition to serving on the Legislative Advisory Council for School District 196. She is also on the school board for FIT academy, a charter school in Apple Valley.