TRENTON, N.J. – Sen. Ed Durr, and Assemblywomen Beth Sawyer and Bethanne McCarthy Patrick want Gov. Phil Murphy to rescind his executive order that requires school staff and teachers who are not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to submit to once or twice weekly testing.
The freshman legislators argue that executive order No. 253 is burdensome, discriminatory and remains in effect despite little Covid spread in schools and the public health emergency termination in March.
“Murphy’s mandates boil down to one word: discrimination. He picks the haves and have-nots. The superior and the inferior,” Durr (R-Gloucester) said. “There is no public health emergency. The pandemic is over. It is time to stop with the discrimination and let everyone do their jobs.”
The state’s Covid dashboard reports approximately 85% of school staff statewide are vaccinated. Employees who are fully vaccinated are exempt from Covid testing in most cases.
“Gov. Murphy needs to let teachers focus on what really matters — delivering a quality education to their students. This executive order diverts precious time and resources away from a school’s main mission to fulfil an unnecessary mandate,” Sawyer (R-Gloucester) said. “Transmission in schools has not gone up since they lifted the mask mandate and getting rid of this burdensome requirement will not have detrimental effects either.”
Murphy lifted the universal school mask mandate March 7 and weekly case rates among students and staff have remained stable, mirroring trends seen early in the school year. Covid-19 activity levels in all New Jersey counties is either currently moderate or low. Cumberland County, which is included in the lawmakers’ district, has had a low level for the past five weeks.
“It is a waste of money to continuously test a small fraction of unvaccinated teachers and staff, because published studies show they pose no greater threat to the school than their vaccinated colleagues. Even ‘Mister masked-up-and-boosted Murphy’ got Covid,” McCarthy Patrick (R-Salem) said. “With all the hoops educators have had to jump through these past two years, Murphy should be grateful that anyone still shows up – but the ones who do, do it because it’s about the kids. It’s only right that we let everyone return to a sense of normalcy.”
Many teachers have left the profession altogether and there are fewer candidates to replace them, which is leading to dire staffing shortages said advocates and educators during a Joint Committee on Public Schools hearing in February. According to a U.S. Department of Education database, New Jersey has teacher shortages in six different subject areas, including science, math and world languages, for the next school year.