Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said he planned to make school districts report the number of teachers who have been vaccinated, immediately raising questions in the education community about how that would work or whether it was even legal.
Cuomo during a conference call with the press said starting this week school districts would be required to report the number of teachers who have been vaccinated and the number of teachers who teach class in person, arguing the data would be useful in guiding decisions about reopening schools to more in-person instruction.
“Everyone will say as soon as we can let’s get back to in-person teaching, most people will say they are sympathetic (with the safety concerns of educators),” Cuomo said during the call. “Let’s find out where we are and get the facts, so we can find a policy going forward.”
But it’s not clear that district leaders know how many staff members have been vaccinated or whether they can even ask under health privacy laws. While educators have qualified for vaccines for weeks now, efforts to vaccinate teachers have been a hodgepodge around the state. In some places, districts or teachers unions are helping to coordinate more organized vaccination pushes, while in other places teachers have taken it on themselves to get vaccinated. Many teachers are still working to schedule a vaccine appointment.
Cuomo – who at one point said districts would report the data but at another point said counties would report the number of vaccinated teachers – said districts would be notified of the new requirement Tuesday, with the first data expected on Wednesday. He said the data would be updated on a weekly basis.
School districts are already required to report daily updates of the number of students and staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19, along with information on the breakdown of students learning remotely and students learning in person.
“Let’s vaccinate teachers and if teachers are vaccinated that should remove the main obstacles to in-classroom teaching,” Cuomo said.
Bob Lowry, who tracks state policy for the state Council of School Superintendents, said the governor’s statement raised immediate questions about whether and how districts would be able to comply with such a reporting requirement.
“It’s not something we know about,” Lowry said, noting the first they heard of the policy proposal was in the wake of Cuomo’s comments. “We’ve already heard from districts: how are we going to gather this information? Can we ask for it under HIPAA (federal privacy laws)? And we don’t know at this point how it’s going to work.”