‘Supermajority’ of teachers ready for schools to reopen

Nearly a quarter of AFT members have been vaccinated; 47% say they will get vaccinated as soon as possible
By: | February 17, 2021
The American Federation of Teachers continues to work with local governments and district leaders to ensure COVID vaccines are distributed to educators alongside other essential workers.The American Federation of Teachers continues to work with local governments and district leaders to ensure COVID vaccines are distributed to educators alongside other essential workers.

A supermajority of American Federation of Teachers members want to return to in-person learning, expressing new confidence in COVID safety precautions, a survey shows.

More than 8 out of 10 AFT educators support going back to classrooms and a similar number approve of the Biden administration’s plan for reopening schools, according to a survey the union conducted in early February and released Tuesday.

Only 16% of AFT members surveyed said their districts have “gone too far with reopening,” while 79% said remote and online learning are not working as well as in-person instruction.

“Teachers want a path to safely return to their classrooms because they understand the importance of in-school learning for their kids,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement.


More from DAWhy CDC reopening guidance is just the start of K-12 recovery


“This isn’t an ‘either/or,’ it’s a ‘both/and.’ If we can implement common sense safety protocols, we can not only open, we can do it safely and with the overwhelming support of teachers and support personnel,” Weingarten said.

Nearly a quarter of AFT members said they have been vaccinated, and an additional 47% say they will get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Vice President Kamala Harris said in an interview with NBC News Wednesday that teachers should move to the front of the line for vaccinations. Harris, however, stopped short of saying teachers must be vaccinated before schools can reopen.

Harris also said that “fewer than half the states are prioritizing teachers right now to receive the vaccine,” NBC News reported.

The AFT, meanwhile, is continuing to work with local governments and schools to ensure COVID vaccines is distributed to educators alongside other essential workers.

Some 85% of the union members said they would be comfortable working in classrooms if the AFT’s safety recommendations “were followed and funded.” The AFT’s safety protocols—similar to the Biden administration’s plan—cover testing, masks, physical distancing, cleaning and sanitizing procedures, and ventilation upgrades.


More from DA: 5 ways to overcome compassion fatigue in K-12 education


“Teachers want what children need—a safe and rapid return to in-person learning and the resources to make it real,” Weingarten said.

Online or in-person?

Teachers also reported their preferences for how students should currently be learning:

  • Hybrid: 40%
  • Fully in-person: 24%
  • Fully remote: 34%

The poll also found significant differences in opinion, depending on the mode teachers have been using:

  • 62% of in-person teachers want to remain with students in their classrooms
  • 55% using hybrid want to continue with that blended approach.
  • 75% teaching remotely would prefer to continue in that mode.

But even respondents who said they not comfortable with in-person learning supported AFT’s reopening plan by a 73% to 21% margin.