Teachers want masks in school districts across the country, as September looms. And they’re willing to fight for them in Republican-controlled states where mask mandates have been banned by law.
So far, Arizona, Florida, Texas, Arkansas, and West Virginia have passed legislature forbidding schools from requiring masks on students or staff members. None of them have reversed their rulings in light of the CDC’s latest guidance, which calls for universal mask-wearing indoors as the delta variant of COVID-19 blazes through the U.S.
Teachers’ unions have launched lawsuits against those lawmakers, for endangering teachers and students alike, but teachers aren’t waiting on the results of those suits. The picket lines are already drawn.
“At no point shall I allow my decision to be influenced by a threat to my paycheck; a small price to pay considering the gravity of this issue and the potential impact to the health and well-being of our students and dedicated employees,” said Alberto Carvalho, the superintendent of Miami-Dade School District, Florida’s largest school district. Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis, is a staunch opponent of requiring masks for school children because few children are hospitalized with COVID, even though the science indicates they are a major vector for community spread. He has threatened to withhold pay from any educator requiring masks.
The White House has indicated that should DeSantis carry out this threat, federal funds could be used to pay affected school officials.
In Texas, a judge has sided with teachers who want masks suing to be allowed to mandate masks in their classrooms, and another hearing is scheduled for next week. School districts in major cities across the state are mandating masks regardless of the state law.
Another law banning mask mandates in Arkansas has been blocked by a state judge on constitutional grounds. Arkansas is currently second in the nation for new cases per capital, with one of the lowest vaccination rates and virtually no hospital beds left unoccupied.