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Newsom’s school COVID-19 vaccine mandate is weak tea

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Forward-thinking school districts that are requiring COVID-19 vaccination for students and staff alike could use some state muscle behind them. They didn’t get it Friday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom made what was expected to be a forceful announcement on school vaccines. Well, he made an announcement. But it disappointed, because his proposal for vaccine mandates moves too slowly and carries too little punch. It doesn’t apply to teachers yet and probably won’t go into effect until next summer. And it could be easy for families to gain exemptions because of existing state laws.

The two largest school districts in the state already have mandated vaccines for older students, teachers and all other employees who aren’t studying or working remotely. But as the deadline for vaccination approaches for the Los Angeles Unified School District — Oct. 3 for student athletes and those involved in extracurricular activities, Oct. 15 for staff — thousands of students and employees aren’t on track to meet the deadlines. Some employees are saying that instead of getting a shot, they’ll retire, switch to independent study or try to find another job in a district without the requirements. (The San Diego Unified School District just passed its new mandates Tuesday, so it’s too early to gauge the resistance.)

The latter is especially troubling because California schools already are short-handed and most of them are trying to hire more teachers, counselors, nurses and bus drivers.

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