Why Cardona is now expressing support for student and staff vaccine mandates

'If it becomes mandated, it will help flatten the curve and also get us back to normal,' Cardona says
By: | August 11, 2021
State bans on school mask mandates, such as those in Florida and Texas, are putting students and staff in harm's way, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said Wednesday.State bans on school mask mandates, such as those in Florida and Texas, are putting students and staff in harm's way, Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said Wednesday.

Teachers and students may be required to get COVID vaccines to keep schools open throughout the pandemic, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona says.

California and New York City have so far required teachers to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing. Cardona not only said he supports these mandates but might also expand the requirement once the vaccines are fully authorized by the FDA for Americans of all ages.

“I’m expecting that as the FDA finishes its process, it could be after that that the conversation comes up more in earnest,” Cardona said Wednesday in a web conference with the National Press Foundation. “Vaccination is the best way to get our schools reopened. If it becomes mandated, it will help flatten the curve and also get us back to normal.”

So far, vaccination rates for 12- to 18-year-olds are not as high as federal officials would like them to be, he added.

California on Wednesday became the first state to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.

Schools must comply with this latest public health order from Gov. Gavin Newsom by Oct. 15.

“To give parents confidence that their children are safe as schools return to full, in-person learning, we are urging all school staff to get vaccinated,” said Newsom said. “Vaccinations are how we will end this pandemic.”

Legal victory for mask mandates

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s prohibition against mask requirements has been dealt its first legal blow. A judge’s ruling Tuesday cleared the way for the city of San Antonio and surrounding Bexar County to mandate masks inside buildings.


More from DA: 10 ways parents are feeling about vaccinating their kids, wearing masks


San Antonio ISD reacted quickly, announcing masks would be required for all staff and students starting Wednesday. To the north, Fort Worth ISD Superintendent Kent P. Scribner announced a mask mandate for his district, with school set to start on Aug. 16.

The Houston Federation of Teachers expresses strong support for the mask mandate put in place by Houston ISD on Aug. 11.

“We strongly support the superintendent’s decision to buck the governor and implement a mask mandate for everyone entering Houston school buildings,” Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, said in a statement. “Gov. Abbott is on the wrong side of science, health and safety.”

Cardona said in the press call that the Biden Administration strongly opposes statewide bans on school masks mandates. “If we make poor decisions that go against science, then we’re putting students and staff in danger,” Cardona said. “It’s unfortunate that schools have had their hands tied behind their back by poor policies that are politically driven.”

Kentucky on Tuesday became the latest state to mandate universal masking in all of its public schools.

“We are in the midst right now of the fastest surge that we have ever seen during COVID,” Gov. Andy Beshear said in a statement. “This move is supported by medical organizations, local health department leaders, businesses and education leaders.

Houston Barber, superintendent of Frankfort Independent Schools and president of the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents, supported the mandate. His district, where masks are required for all, has seen no spread of COVID-19 since school started on Aug. 2.

“The small sacrifice and commitment to wear masks has opened up the world of opportunities for our students to be successful during in-person school,” Barber said in the statement. “We must remain faithful to this small sacrifice at this time to thrive and transform the lives and minds of our most precious gifts (students) without any disruption.”

In Florida, where several districts have defied a state prohibition of mask mandates, a decision by the State Board of Education to provide private school vouchers for students who don’t want to wear face coverings is facing pushback from advocacy groups who fear children’s health is being put at risk.

“As school districts around the nation struggle with how best to protect the health and safety of students returning to school, the Florida Board of Education has taken this opportunity to undermine local control and authority over local schools and drain funds from an already underfunded public school system,” said  Raymond Pierce, president and CEO of the Southern Education Foundation, which advocates for underserved students. “These actions only serve to put students’ health at risk and undermine their education.”