Open Letter to Elected Officials in Charge of Vaccine Distribution
I find it difficult to understand why Evanston Township High School teachers have not yet been offered the vaccine in Evanston, while school communities all around us, including New Trier, Oak Park River Forest, Skokie, and others in Lake and DuPage counties have been able to vaccinate their teachers completely, some of them weeks ago.
I understand the vaccine shortages, I understand distribution issues, and I understand that Evanston has its own health department, but these issues do not explain this disparity between communities.
Importantly, this is not just a matter of inconsistency; it is a matter of equity. As the attached article [a March 3 article in Education Week, “Why Are Black Teachers Being Vaccinated at Lower Rates Than Their White Peers?” By Madeline Will, attached to the letter] describes, “survey data from the two national teachers’ unions reveal stark inequities within the vaccine rollout so far. Black educators, the data show, are less likely to be vaccinated than their white peers.”
At ETHS 51.7% of our staff is nonwhite. We have a higher percentage of teachers of color than any other suburban district because of our success in recent years recruiting teachers of color, notably higher than most districts anywhere.
Our teachers and staff of color are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 and at higher risk of dying from it. Yet they are unable to secure the vaccine. (I am aware of sites at the United Center and also in Des Plaines, but I cannot believe that we are asking teachers to navigate that process and take the time to drive to these locations to get something for which they should be prioritized – and as it turns out, those locations are closed to our teachers, unless they happen to reside in the City of Chicago.)
Of course, many of our teachers have been able to secure the vaccine, by taking the time to scour on-line appointment availability and driving to distant locations, but this is not the way vaccine accessibility should be prioritized.
The Evanston vaccination rate appears to be half that of the state as a whole, based on recent statistics published in the RoundTable. The current distribution system allows all those involved to avoid accountability by pointing to someone else.
The Biden administration can point to the prior administration; our federal officials can point to the State; and the State can point back to the federal officials. In the meantime, our educators work to open schools, without the support that has been promised.
As I am sure those of you who took the time to ask for a meeting with our school administrators to urge the re-opening of ETHS must realize, vaccinations are an important element of the plan to re-open.
Some of you, exercising your privilege as an elected official, have already secured the vaccine. I look forward to hearing more from each of you about how you can help put Evanston schools on equal footing with our neighboring communities by assisting our staff with getting their vaccines.
Thank you for your efforts during this difficult time.
— Gretchen Livingston, Board member, Evanston/Skokie District 202