WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Carolyn Bourdeaux, a former Professor at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, sent a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona regarding COVID-19 risks affecting higher education students and educators.
In the letter, Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux said, “employees at our Universities are essentially compelled to work in unsafe environments or quit their jobs. In fact, several professors have quit and others have expressed grave concerns about their safety, the safety of their students, and of the university community. As a former teacher at Georgia State University, I am deeply concerned about the lack of protections for my former co-workers as well as for our students.”
Since taking office, Congresswoman Bourdeaux has heard from numerous concerned constituents, and colleagues about the increasing risk educators face of contracting COVID-19. Federal contractors are covered by the President’s COVID-19 Action Plan and it is unclear whether this includes institutions of higher education that receive significant federal dollars. In the letter, Rep. Bourdeaux requests clarification from Secretary Miguel Cardona about these provisions.
The letter text can be found below.
September 30, 2021
The Honorable Miguel Cardona
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202
Dear Secretary Cardona,
Thank you for your continued leadership in battling the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance provided and action taken by the United States Department of Education sets forth a clear plan for our nation’s postsecondary institutions to get students safely back into the classroom. However, I am writing today because states such as Georgia have taken action to specifically prohibit implementation of essential public health practices around COVID-19, and I am seeking clarification about whether elements of the President’s recent COVID-19 Action Plan would apply to postsecondary institutions that receive federal funds.
Postsecondary educators and employees face a unique challenge as students return to campus from across the country and at many schools, there are no assurances that employees or students have received the vaccine. To date, less than 50 percent of Georgians are fully vaccinated, and the rate is significantly lower for the population aged 18 to 24 years. Unfortunately, this vaccination rate is not sufficient to ensure the well-being of our educators, support staff, administrators and students at our technical schools, colleges and universities.
In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order prohibiting state agencies, including the University System of Georgia, from requiring vaccines and has repeatedly voiced his opposition to universal mask wearing. While the University System is encouraging students, staff, and faculty to get vaccinated and wear masks, they are unable to require employee and student vaccinations and they are unwilling to require mask-wearing, which means that compliance with these critical public health guidelines is very low. As a result, employees at our Universities are essentially compelled to work in unsafe environments or quit their jobs. In fact, several professors have quit and others have expressed grave concerns about their safety, the safety of their students and of the university community. As a former teacher at Georgia State University, I am deeply concerned about the lack of protections for my former co-workers as well as for our students.
The President’s recently announced COVID-19 Action Plan included a number of crucial provisions to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, it is not clear whether institutions receiving federal funds through grants or other research agreements are subject to the President’s requirement that federal contractors institute vaccine mandates.
I respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience to address these concerns and discuss how we can protect teachers, professors, support staff, and students in postsecondary educational institutions.
Again, I thank you and President Biden for your leadership to protect Americans. I look forward to working with you to get our country back on track and ensure our world-class education systems can safely return to normal.
Member of Congress
Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux lives with her family in Suwanee, Georgia, and represents Georgia’s 7th Congressional District in the 117th Congress. Carolyn is a strong advocate for affordable health care, and economic recovery that puts workers and small businesses first, and investing in her district’s world-class public education system and transportation infrastructure.
Georgia’s fast-changing 7th Congressional District includes portions of the northeast Atlanta metropolitan area, including portions of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties and cities Peachtree Corners, Berkeley Lake, Sugar Hill, Norcross, Cumming, Lawrenceville, Duluth, Snellville, Lilburn, Suwanee, Grayson, and Buford.