Thousands of New York City public school teachers and aides will lose their jobs this fall, with many of the hundreds of schools that were closed in March losing any staff at all.
New York is mandated to have one out of every three children vaccinated against measles by the end of September, forcing many parents to choose between watching their child miss days of class and vaccinating their kids, even if they are not up to date.
The city has hired thousands of new staff members in the lead-up to the start of the school year in September, but it’s too little too late.
A report by the New York City Department of Education revealed that 178 schools closed in March lost any staff at all. In total, some 2,500 teachers and aides across the city will lose their jobs at the start of the next school year. Officials said schools affected included ones that were considering closing.
“The extra staffing was done in anticipation of those school closures,” city Education Department spokesman Will Berliner said.
New York was the first city in the nation to pass a vaccination mandate for kindergarten through eighth grade in 2009. The mandate, known as the Seidenberg law, requires all school children to be vaccinated. If their parents don’t take them to a doctor, the children are required to stay home. But with school openings in September, the requirement could slip from this year into next.
Under the law, districts have until Aug. 18 to fill the vacancies. From there, parents can then request that the district determine whether to keep their children out of school for up to a year until they are up to date on their vaccines. A health department representative said that system can be complicated.
“Filling a school job in mid-August is much more complex than filling a job at the beginning of the year,” a representative said. “Making sure the jobs are filled in a timely manner and minimizing the impact on the students is a major focus for the Health Department this summer.”
Many New York schools will be forced to close next week when the warmer weather arrives and nearly 80 percent of the city’s population is expected to be on vacation.
Edwin Cherry, a vice president with the National School Boards Association, said that the requirement is a huge logistical challenge for the cities, their leaders and their staff.
“With the situation we’re in with planning for the enrollment surge that is all the more important,” Cherry said. “It has been extremely challenging.”
The Seidenberg law was sparked by the 2002 death of an 8-year-old girl named Katherine Grange. Katherine was allergic to Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR), and Rubella (Rabies). Doctors said that she probably would have lived if the measles vaccinations were in her system.
But Katherine died from complications of measles. The child’s father, Jacob Grange, spearheaded the legislation. Grange got his daughter vaccinated at a nearby hospital, but Grange told his local paper he would only make the same decision again if it came down to it.
“We were advised that doctors don’t put kids up for a measles test with their allergies before they test, and I’m not the type of parent to break what’s in their kids’ best interest,” Grange told the Press of Atlantic City.
The Seidenberg law went into effect in New York in 2005 and is another example of modern U.S. laws applying to children from all over the world.
This article is an edited excerpt from City Leader, a weekly newsletter written by Washington Post writers and editors.