U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said that he disagrees with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s move to ban nearly any coronavirus vaccine mandates in the state.
That’s because the move will affect children in both public and private schools in the state, some of whom are not yet eligible to be vaccinated themselves.
“Yes, I think the Governor is off,” Cardona told CNBC’s Sharon Epperson in a Tuesday interview. “That’s why our Office for Civil Rights is investigating how those actions could be potentially discriminating against students’ rights to public education.”
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Gov. Abbott issued the broad executive order on Monday making it voluntary for those eligible to get the vaccine against Covid-19 in Texas. The action was prompted by the Biden administration’s federal vaccine mandate, which requires companies with more than 100 employees to make sure their workers are fully vaccinated or regularly tested.
The Department of Education in August launched civil rights investigations in five states — Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Utah — that had banned mask mandates, questioning if such measures discriminate against children with disabilities who may be more likely to be hospitalized with Covid-19. It initiated an investigation against Texas for the same reason in September.
“It’s appalling that we’re talking about debating whether or not to protect children,” said Cardona. “We know the science; we know it spreads easier when you don’t have masks. We know vaccines save lives.”
Cardona noted that hospitalizations of children due to Covid-19 have been higher in places that have barred mandates for wearing masks and being vaccinated. It also puts teachers and their families at risk unnecessarily, he said.
“Protecting our educators and honoring them by saying we are going to protect your workspace by requiring what we know works,” he said. “That’s so basic.”