Public schools

Maryland Is Vaccinating Remote Public School Teachers Before In-Person Private School Teachers

Teachers who refuse to go back to work should not get to cut in line.


In Montgomery County, Maryland, the public schools have remained closed since last March while many private schools have decided to open. But the county's vaccination plan prioritizes public school teachers over employees of private schools.

"[Health officials] also will be working with our school systems, starting with the public schools, to provide opportunities for vaccination for educators and teachers," Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles said during a press conference, the Washington Examiner reported.

Gayles added that he anticipated "working with nonpublic schools" at some indeterminate point in the future. "All of those things are in the works," he said.

The Examiner's Tim Carney noted that the county's most recent vaccination guidelines allow public school staff to move to the front of the queue, but say nothing about their counterparts in private education. If this is an honest mistake, it's one that health officials are in no hurry to clear up: The county did not immediately respond to Reason's request for comment.

Vaccinating teachers who are not yet back in their classrooms ahead of teachers who are actually teaching in-person makes little sense. It's not even clear that public school teachers are receiving vaccines so that they can return to work: The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), the state's largest teachers union, has dismissed calls by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan to reopen schools.

In a recent letter, MSEA President Cheryl Bost berated the governor for expecting union members to return to work and castigated him for suggesting that he might explore legal options to force the issue.

"I have never, in all my years, heard of a single statement uttered by a state leader that caused more tears, more anxiety, and more frustration among educators than your threat to withhold their pay and revoke their licenses at the very moments when they were working incredibly hard, as they have for months, to make the best of educating our students in impossible circumstances," wrote Bost.

These are crocodile tears. The Maryland teachers union bosses—as well as other teachers unions across the country—have made it abundantly clear that they will fight school reopenings for as long as possible, no matter the circumstances of the pandemic. Teachers engaged in protests in Chicago, New York City, Baltimore, D.C., and elsewhere have asserted that they won't go back to work until they feel completely safe. But we know that many schools are quite safe already—even the famously cautious Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said so.

Given that they intend to be among the last group of people to reenter the workforce, there's an argument for deprioritizing public teachers in the vaccination queue. They certainly shouldn't be stealing spots from private school educators.

Update: It's not just Maryland.