Last week Oregon Gov. Kate Brown decided to push teachers and school staff to the front of the COVID vaccine line, shoving farmworkers, food processors and others in the food supply chain farther back.
Throughout the pandemic, Brown has been abundantly cautious about sending kids and teachers to school. The Oregon Education Association, the union that represents more than 44,000 teachers and school staff members, has been adamant that schools not be reopened until staff safety could be ensured.
So, a strict state matrix for school reopening made it difficult to get kids back into the classroom.
The online classes offered by school districts have largely been a disaster because both teachers and students are ill-equipped for this exercise. With the kids at home, many parents have been unable to return to their jobs, or, for those working remotely, devote necessary time to their employment.
Shortly before Christmas, Brown changed tack, allowing local school boards to determine when it was safe to reopen.
So, to get them back in school, teachers have been given vaccination priority. They will be first of the so designated 1B “essential” workers to get the shot.
Meanwhile, a host of essential 1B workers have been on the job throughout the pandemic. Farmworkers, processors, warehouse workers, truck drivers and grocery clerks have faced the threat of the virus in their workplaces with little more than hand sanitizer and face masks.
They can wait a little longer. Teachers and staff will roll up their sleeves next, though it’s unclear if they can be vaccinated in time to reopen schools before summer break.
No one can argue that the kids don’t desperately need to be back in school. That the teachers’ union is a large political donor with lots of clout in Salem probably doesn’t have anything to do with it.
All animals are equal. Some are more equal than others.