ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A group of Republican state lawmakers on Tuesday said they plan to propose a bill during the up-coming special session that would include teachers among those who will receive the COVID-19 vaccine first.

In a virtual press conference, the lawmakers said they want educators to be vaccinated before the general public, after health care workers and those considered “high risk.” The lawmakers argued that teachers should be prioritized because their students are suffering academically and emotionally from not being in the classroom. Additionally, they said that the pandemic has amplifies inequities, hurting children from low-income families more than their wealthier counterparts.

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“Right now, we’re being impacted forever,” said Grant Higgins, an Anoka High School student who spoke during the virtual press conference. “Yesterday, I had one of my close friends send me a video on Snapchat of her crying, because she failed math. And she’s a smart kid, but the way everything has been…this is just not a fair way to learn.

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Rep. Sondra Erickson (R-Princeton) said the state’s public school system was not designed to handle this prolonged social distancing. “We have to face reality right now and try to get our children caught up,” she said on the virtual conference.

Minnesota lawmakers and health leaders will need to discusses whether or not educators get vaccine priority over other groups, such as first responders, who have also requested to be among the first people in the state inoculated against the virus. Additionally, there are also concerns that students in classrooms could still spread the virus, even if educators are vaccinated.

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So far, there’s so word yet on exactly which groups would get vaccine priority, other than health care workers and those in long-term care facilities. Gov. Tim Walz and health officials are expected to detail the state’s vaccine plan during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

Christiane Cordero