January 27, 2021

Education Advocacy Update: Educators Prioritized in Next Vaccine Phase

Education Advocacy Update: Educators Prioritized in Next Vaccine Phase Featured Image
Wisconsin State Capitol Building in Madison, Wisconsin

Educators will be prioritized in the next phase of vaccinations in Wisconsin, the state Department of Health Services announced today.

The next phase of vaccine recipients is expected to begin March 1, prioritizing educators and childcare employees, followed by public-facing essential workers and others. There are about 600,000 Wisconsinites in the coming phase, which is just under the number in the first phase currently underway.

“If the vaccine allocation increases, we will move that date up,” said DHS Deputy Secretary Julie Willems Van Dijk, “but if there is a decrease, that could push it back.”

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Senate Republicans Vote to End Mask Mandate

The Senate Republican majority has passed a resolution to overturn Governor Tony Evers’ latest public health emergency and the accompanying mask mandate to combat COVID-19. Along with WEAC and other groups, the Wisconsin Medical Society is opposed to the Republican-authored resolution.

Assembly Passes Amended COVID Bill

The Assembly passed an amended COVID-19 bill, AB-1, reinserting some provisions the Senate had removed. The items re-inserted into the bill include stripping local government officials of their powers to restrict meetings at houses or worship and banning employers from requiring a vaccine as a condition of employment, along with giving the Joint Finance Committee oversight of federal relief funds. The bill now goes back to the Senate, adding to the 180 days since Senate Republican leaders have taken any action on addressing the COVID crisis in Wisconsin.

Assembly Health Committee Takes Up Priority Vaccines, Prisoner Vaccinations

The Assembly Health Committee has taken up a bill, AB-5, that would require the DHS to make a priority of vaccinating those 60 or older against COVID-19. Currently, Wisconsinites 65 and older are eligible in the first phase of vaccinations, and this would add 60-64-year-olds into the highest level of priority. One amendment to the proposed legislation would ban prisoners under 60 from getting vaccinations until after it is available to the general public. The DHS has put prisoners into the second phase of vaccination distribution because of the close living quarters and potential from spread to employees and then communities. AB 5 is scheduled to be voted on by the full Assembly on Thursday.

Bills We’re Watching

Nutrition Counseling (AB-11).  This would repeal and modify administrative rules related to sponsors of nutritional counseling education programs.

Voucher Week (AJR-3). Marking January 25-29 as School Choice Week in Wisconsin.

Circulating for Co-Sponsorship

Waiving the Foundations of Reading Test (LRB-1438). This would waive the FoRT Exam licensure requirement during the national health emergency declared in response to COVID-19. Primarily this applies to Aspiring Educators and in rare instances teachers adding an additional elementary/middle school license. It’s a wise bill considering the limitations the of testing centers during the pandemic. Given the difficulty of this exam and its focus primarily on diagnostics over reading comprehension and strategies, the WEA Academy has a prep course for the test: FoRT Preparation – Wisconsin Education Association Council (weac.org).