Update on Vaccine Mandate, Safe Back to School

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8-11-21

PHILADELPHIA—This morning, PFT President Jerry Jordan offers written testimony to the PA House Democratic Policy Committee on a safe and healthy back to school for students and staff. In it, Jordan outlines key mitigation measures that must be in place and broader issues of infrastructure and funding that underscore so much of the work we do each day.

In his testimony, Jordan identifies key areas of concern:

  1. Toxic schools crisis
  2. Specific COVID related safeguards, including vaccination, testing, and masks
  3. Funding

Jordan notes, "The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers wants and supports full, five day a week in-person instruction for all students. And we need to ensure the safety of students and staff. With the Delta variant surging, we cannot let our pandemic fatigue and desire to return to 'normal' allow us to collectively shirk our responsibility to keep our communities safe from this virus. The desire to ensure the safety of all of our young people and the educators who serve them should not be a partisan issue. And this is exactly why our union has, from day one of the COVID-19 crisis, looked towards real and safe ways to move towards a return to in-person learning."

On the topic of vaccination, Jordan writes, "In order to ensure that we are doing all we can to support the health and safety of our students and staff, the PFT supports the position outlined by AFT President Randi Weingarten, and we are fully prepared to support a negotiated vaccine mandate for staff. This will include important exemptions for medical and religious reasons, and as all items related to working conditions, must be implemented utilizing the collective bargaining process. But again let me be clear: this union has never, and will never, stand in the way of the health and safety of educators and students alike."

Jordan discusses other key mitigation metrics including mask mandates and testing. On testing, Jordan states, "In the spring, the District rightfully implemented a robust student and staff testing program. For the fall, however, they have indicated their plans to not test students who are asymptomatic. We emphatically disagree with this recommendation. We are still learning much about how COVID spreads among young people, and so to forgo testing, while tens of thousands of our students are not yet even eligible for a vaccine, is absolutely the wrong decision. We urge the District to reinstate a robust testing program for students and staff."

This union has, and will continue to, follow the science and facts related to COVID-19.

Jordan concludes, "We know that our students benefit immensely from being in school buildings, in- person, with their teachers and school staff. We also know that every child and school staff member needs and deserves to learn and work in conditions that are safe and healthy. And, we know that our students need and deserve equitable learning resources. This union is deeply committed to continuing to advocate and fight for public education."

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Download Jerry Jordan's full testimony here.

Download the full testimony package including appendices here.