Leader of Indiana’s teachers wants educators moved up on vaccination list

Greater Clark County Schools returned to in-person learning after months of planning.
Greater Clark County Schools returned to in-person learning after months of planning.
Updated: Feb. 4, 2021 at 6:03 PM EST
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Indiana governor Eric Holcomb.
Indiana governor Eric Holcomb.(Source: State of Indiana)
Keith Gambill, president, Indiana State Teachers Association
Keith Gambill, president, Indiana State Teachers Association(Source: Indiana State Teachers Association)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WAVE) - The head of the Indiana State Teachers Association is calling out Gov. Eric Holcomb and the state for not vaccinating teachers sooner.

In a letter to the editors of our news partner, The News and Tribume, Keith Gambill, of Evansville, president of ISTA, says in order for Indiana’s teachers to do their jobs effectively they need to be moved up in the vaccine tiers.

During his weekly update on Feb. 3, Holcomb said the teachers he has spoke with are okay with being vaccinated a little later.

“I talk to teachers as well, who have expressed their appreciation that we’re taking care of their grandmother or grandfather or mother, and that they’re okay with the approach of making sure that we’re focused on the most at risk of dying or going to the hospital and potential of dying,” Holcomb said.

You can read Gambill’s full letter below.

For months, teachers’ personal and professional lives have been upended and many have put their lives at risk to ensure our kids receive a quality education during the pandemic – all while being told we would be prioritized when the moment came for a vaccine. Yet, Indiana decided to disregard the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on vaccine allocation by delaying teacher vaccinations. Parents, students, and educators want nothing more than a return to normalcy and without prioritizing educators learning disruptions will only worsen.

While we agree that high-risk healthcare workers and the most vulnerable Hoosiers should be the first priority, many teachers, such as those teaching special education, cannot do their jobs effectively while socially distanced — for the child’s protection and for the educator’s.

Delaying vaccinations for educators impacts students, student learning and families. Since the start of the school year, nearly 11,000 educators and more than 24,000 students have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the state’s online dashboard. Thousands of students have been impacted by quarantine, while a patchwork of staff cover for quarantined teachers and parents and families try to return to work.

Students continue to experience learning disruptions as the pandemic continues. These disruptions are in large part due to students not being physically present in their schools. Vaccinating teachers will keep schools open and stop further losses in learning. No one wants to be in the classroom more than teachers.

Hoosier educators already feel undervalued by state leaders — mostly due to low pay and constantly changing standards and regulations from state government. Indiana’s current teacher shortage and shrinking pipeline of new educators will only worsen because of the pandemic. In a recent survey of Hoosier educators, 71% say they have considered retiring early or leaving the profession due to workload increases. Lack of respect for our profession has been a constant refrain among educators, and this latest action doesn’t help.

Keith Gambill, president, Indiana State Teachers Association

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