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Largest teachers' union in US backs COVID vaccine requirement or testing

The National Education Association says nearly 90% of its members have reported they are fully vaccinated already.

WASHINGTON — The largest teachers' union in the country has officially put its support behind requiring educators to be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 or to undergo regular testing.

"As we enter a new school year amidst a rapidly spreading Delta variant and lagging public vaccination rates, it is clear that the vaccination of those eligible is one of the most effective ways to keep schools safe, and they must be coupled with other proven mitigation strategies," National Education Association president Becky Pringle said in a statement

The union represents more than 3 million teachers, school faculty and administrators.

On Wednesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state would require its 320,000 teachers and school employees to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. 

Pringle noted that nearly 90% of the unions' members have reported they are fully vaccinated already. She also said that educators need to have a voice in how the vaccine requirements are rolled out.

Credit: AP
Joy Harrison instructs her second graders as California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits the classroom at Carl B. Munck Elementary School, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Oakland, Calif.

"Educators must also continue to play an active role in developing other mitigation systems—including testing, tracing, masking, distancing, hand washing, ventilation, cleaning, and disinfection," Pringle said. 

As students return to classrooms, schools across the country have a wide variety of different rules to try and keep in-person learning going. But in several states, Republican leaders have banned school mask mandates. 

But with young children not yet able to get COVID-19 vaccines, some blue-leaning districts are publicly rebelling against the laws and still requiring masks in schools. 

Districts in Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio and Broward County, Florida, are among those defying the mask laws.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis threatened to withhold the salaries of school leaders who enact mask requirements.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.