Charlie Baker wants local school districts to decide on teacher vaccine mandates

While some states have ordered teachers to get the vaccine, Baker says such decisions "belong to the local level."

Matthew J Lee/Globe staff
Gov. Charlie Baker during a press conference in May. Matthew Lee / The Boston Globe

Gov. Charlie Baker may be imposing a strict COVID-19 vaccine mandate for tens of thousands of Massachusetts state government workers, but he says he’s leaving it up to local school districts to make the same decision for teachers.

While a number of governors around the country have implemented statewide vaccine requirements for teachers, Baker said Monday that he believes such policies “belong to the local level” in Massachusetts.

At the same time, the Republican governor said he hopes most school districts consider it.

“Cities and towns have the primary relationship in Massachusetts with the school’s employees, and I certainly would hope that most folks — especially since the teachers unions have expressed an interest in supporting vaccinations for everybody in the school building — would be willing to engage in those discussions and see where they can go,” Baker told reporters Monday afternoon, following a tour of a “back to school” vaccine clinic in Everett.


“But again, that is something that, under state law and collective bargaining and everything else, really does belong to the local level,” he added.

Oregon and Washington have ordered teachers in their states to get the vaccine or face discipline, including up to termination. Meanwhile, a number of other states — including California, Connecticut, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Hawaii — will force teachers to make the decision between the vaccine or regular testing.

In Massachusetts, two of the state’s largest teacher’s unions, the Boston Teachers Union and the Massachusetts Teachers Association, have also come out in support of vaccine requirements for their members (the MTA also supports requiring the vaccine for all eligible students).

Those same groups had criticized Baker for his previous decision to allow schools to decide whether to impose in-school mask mandates (the state reversed course earlier this month, ordering universal masking in K-12 schools until at least October, with vaccine benchmarks for relaxing the mandate after that).

However, the MTA, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment, has said vaccine requirements “must be dealt with in local collective bargaining agreements.” And while Baker has also ordered long-term care facility staff to get the COVID-19 vaccine, he framed his vaccine requirement for state workers Monday as a decision he made as a direct employer.


“We made a decision as an employer to incorporate a vaccine mandate for those workers and contractors who work for the executive branch, and we did that because many of our employees do have fairly regular contact with the public and with each other,” Baker said. “We felt it was important for them, and for the people we deal with every single day, to incorporate a mandate and to basically send a message that we think, as an employer, this is important.”


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