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NYC Issues Vaccine Mandate: Teachers For Choice Push Back

After attending a HUGE “Teachers for Choice” rally at City Hall last Wednesday, I really saw firsthand how the vaccine mandate movement was building. Thousands were there and countless news outlets. Teachers for Choice is led by Michael Kane, a DOE teacher who has left the UFT due to these mandates, and is encouraging others to do the same. He is leading one lawsuit, and there are many more in the works. While it appears as though our UFT colleagues who work in DOE school buildings still seem to have a testing option, at least “for now,” according to the Governor, many are strongly opposed to the vaccine mandate and are understandably anxious about the future. 

Last week’s rally was filled with UFT folks, nurses, doctors, MTA workers, firefighters, police department folks, DEA staff, CSA principals, sanitation workers, and even those from the performing arts’ sector! It was one of the most diverse demonstrations I have ever seen, in every aspect. Many of the speakers and participants noted that they were not necessarily “anti-vax” but were instead, “anti-mandate.” A notable and significant difference, in my opinion. 

Where was the “concern” for our “Big DOE” colleagues when Special Ed teachers in school buildings were being forced to teach five grade levels remotely during the pandemic or when the ventilation issues in many school buildings are not resolved after decades? 

Why are class sizes in DOE buildings STILL enormous? This is not only unsafe, even in non-pandemic times, but it is not conducive to learning or developmentally appropriate, especially for younger learners. Some children do not receive their Special Education services in a timely manner, and sometimes not at all. I can go on, but I think you get the idea. 

Either there is concern for the health and well-being of students and staff, or there is not. It seems odd that, all of a sudden, the vaccine is the solution to all of the problems. I don’t think so! Suddenly, it must be forced on everyone in order to resume in person school! However, many DOE folks were in the classroom ALL last year, including my two colleagues quoted below. However did they survive?

From a DOE Special Education Elementary teacher:

“I worked in person all year, haven’t taken a single day off sick or personal. Although I qualified for medical accommodation, I wanted to ensure my students received high quality in person education. I have commuted on two buses to work each day and had to pay for a full-time nanny to stay with my two kids (4 and 9) because the DOE did not provide child care as they promised. The easier way out would be to just stay home and teach remotely while saving money on commuting and on the childcare. Now I am being told that I need to inject myself with a liability free product in order to keep my position at the DOE. I have worked as a special education teacher in NYC public schools for 13 years. I am an immigrant whose family fled religious persecution and found refuge in NYC. I am a proud product of NYC public schools as I am a proud NYC Teaching fellow who left a nice career 13 years ago in order to work in the least privileged communities in the highest need areas. The Mayor states that he can easily replace me with a substitute teacher and it is heartbreaking to hear how little respect he has not only for my profession but for the neediest of our students because he does not believe they deserve the same highly qualified and educated teacher to work with them, while his own children graduated from NYC public school gifted and talented programs and enjoyed the highest caliber of educators this city offers.”

And another DOE teacher: 

“I think it’s unfair to force people to inject themselves with a vaccine that has yet to prove the long-term effects on the human body. People need to learn to live with this and do what they personally feel they need to do for themselves.  It’s at each American’s own risk.”

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