Amid teacher shortage, 850 more unvaccinated New York City school workers fired, total nearing 2,000

Hundreds of New York City school employees were just fired for failing to comply with an 11-month-old COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

The New York City Department of Education recently ordered approximately 1,300 of its workers to show proof of vaccination by Sept. 5 or “be deemed to have voluntarily resigned.” 

As a result, 850 teachers and classroom aides who failed to comply were let go, bringing the total to nearly 2,000 school workers who have lost jobs over the vaccine mandate to date. 

That mandate was issued on Oct. 20 last year by then-New York City Commissioner of Health and Mental Hygiene Dave A. Chokshi. The mandate included all city employees. 

Some fired teachers even applied for exemptions on religious grounds, but were denied.  

Ex-elementary school teacher Rachelle Garcia told the New York Post she never caught the virus, despite being unvaccinated. And when she submitted a request for religious exemption for the vaccine, she was denied and subsequently let go. 

“I’m angry, I’m hurt, to be cast aside like I was nothing,” she said. “Because I couldn’t give a proper goodbye to my students, other teachers told me they kept asking, ‘When is Ms. Garcia coming back?’ That made me cry so much.” 

The mass firings come in the wake of a national teacher shortage. New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) estimates its state will need over 180,000 teachers in the next decade. Enrollment in New York’s teacher education programs has also declined by 53% since 2009. 

New York City’s vaccine mandate also contradicts President Biden’s recent response to 60 Minutes when asked about the status of the pandemic. 

“The pandemic is over,” Biden said. “We still have a problem with COVID, we’re still doing a lot of work on it, but the pandemic is over.” 

New York City Mayor Eric Adams is defending the vaccine mandate.  

“City workers served on the front lines during the pandemic, and by getting vaccinated, they are, once again, showing how they are willing to do the right thing to protect themselves and all New Yorkers,” he said. “Our goal was always to vaccinate, not terminate, and city workers stepped up and met the goal placed before them.” 

Politicians from other states were quick to criticize the news of the school firings. 

“Idiotic,” said Texas Sen. Ted Cruz of the news. Cruz has defended New York educators in the past. And he criticized teachers unions last year for “unjustly” firing nearly 8,000 school workers. 

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