Harris Dodges Questions About Returning Teachers to Classrooms

"Kamala Harris" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Gage Skidmore

Vice President Kamala Harris dodge questions concerning the White House’s pledge to bring teachers and students back to classrooms. Instead of addressing the new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Harris told a story about her first-grade teacher.

Speaking to NBC News on Wednesday, the Vice President neatly dodged questions about whether the Biden administration is still promising to bring students back to in-classroom learning five days every week within the first 100 days of Biden’s term – a pledge that Biden reiterated in a town hall event last Wednesday. 

Harris instead answered, “Teachers should be a priority.” She went on to note that her “first-grade teacher had attended her law school graduation.”

Harris was then asked if she believed teachers should be vaccinated to return to the classroom setting, in relation to CDC’s statement last week stating that teachers don’t need to be vaccinated first for safe in-person learning.

Harris could only make a comment that teachers should be a “priority” for the COVID-19 vaccines and that the real policy on this matter should be left to the states.

Harris reiterated, “Teachers should be a priority.” She then noted that teachers “are critical to our children’s development, they should be able to teach in a safe place and expand the minds and the opportunities of our children. So teachers should be a priority along with other front-line workers.”

When Harris was asked again if unvaccinated teachers are safe to go back to school, Harris answered, “We have to decide whether we can put in place safety measures, this is why it is so important we pass the American rescue plan,” referring to the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package.

The Vice President also noted that it would be safer to have schools reopen when they have help with “infrastructure needs” such as social distancing barriers and ventilation systems.

However, when NBC host Savannah Guthrie pressed Harris and asked for the third time if it would be safe for unvaccinated teachers to go back to in-classroom learning, Harris suggested that the decision for this would be taken on a State-by-state basis.

When host Savannah Guthrie asked a third time if it would be safe for unvaccinated teachers to return to schools, Harris suggested that decisions would be taken on a state-by-state basis.

Harris said, “We think it should be a priority, and the states are making decisions about where they will be on the list of who gets vaccinated.”

The vice president said that the Biden administration’s goal within the first 100 days in office is to have “as many K-8 schools as possible” reopen. She also noted that “every day our kids are missing essential, critical days in their educational development.”

Last Tuesday, Biden made a pledge during the CNN town hall in Milwaukee stating that teachers and school workers “should be on the list of preferred to get a vaccination.”

Biden also noted that the reopening of schools would depend on the availability of protective equipment for teachers, students, and other school staff. Biden also added that classrooms might have to be open in summer to make up for the time lost due to pandemic.

On the other hand, Dr. Anthony Fauci made a statement this week saying that it would be “optimal” if all teachers are vaccinated before schools reopen. However, “practically speaking,” he said the benefit of getting children back to school had to be balanced with the fact that any risks were being mitigated.