Last week, the satirical website The Babylon Bee published an article proclaiming, “kids form union and donate millions to Newsom so they won’t have to get vaccinated.”
As with any good parody, this piece centered on truth: the most effective voices in California’s education system are teachers unions, because they have a lot of money.
Look no further than Newsom’s recent COVID vaccine mandates, which apply very differently depending on who cut the pertinent check to his most recent campaign. Though Newsom’s announcement of the first-in-in-the-nation childhood vaccine mandate was chock full of platitudes about science and a commitment to keep all Californians safe, his rhetoric falls apart when one considers how his vaccine mandate affecting the state’s prison guards is being applied.
While requiring all eligible students attending both public and private schools to receive the vaccine to continue attending school in-person, the Newsom’s administration is working to exempt prison guards from his mandate affecting state workers.
Looking at how COVID affects children versus adults and the vaccination rates in schools and prisons, Newsom’s stance doesn’t make much sense.
Statewide, 56% of prison staff are fully vaccinated, with rates among staff at some prisons being as low as 29%; 76% of prisoners have received both doses. Meanwhile, over 56% of eligible children are fully vaccinated despite the vaccine only recently being made available to them, and a whopping 90% of California Teachers Association members are vaccinated. California prisons have repeatedly been the sources of outbreaks that have resulted in deaths, while research is clear that schools are not hotbeds for COVID-19. Children are far less likely to develop symptoms when experiencing COVID-19, let alone experience a severe case, compared to adults who are more likely to develop complications the older they get and with each comorbidity they have.
Yet, Newsom and Sacramento lawmakers are doubling down on the student mandate, even working to strip parents of religious- and personal-belief exemptions. But when one considers the money behind Newsom’s recent recall victory, the confusing approach suddenly fades away.
The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, which represents the guards, contributed $1.75 million to Newsom’s campaign and its leadership is staunchly against requiring the shot to work. Conversely, education unions donated $2.4 million to Newsom, and have been vocal proponents of requiring both staff and students to be vaccinated.
Newsom’s vaccine mandates aren’t about science. They’re about politics, and are being applied according to the highest bidder. “Only by raising money and donating it to people like Governor Newsom can we cheat the system and change the science,” The Babylon Bee’s satirical account reads.
The California Policy Center recognized the power imbalance The Babylon Bee joked about years ago, and thanks to your support, was able to create the Parent Union. If teachers have a union to fight for their interests, children should too, and that’s what our growing members are doing each and every day.
Our Parent Union may not buy off politicians, but together, parent voices are being heard, and students’ interests will be honored.
Celeste Fiehler is the Deputy Director of Parent Union.