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Education secretary: Vaccinating teachers 'my top priority'

Education secretary: Vaccinating teachers 'my top priority'
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Education Secretary Miguel CardonaMiguel CardonaBiden accompanies first lady to medical procedure Biden to accompany first lady to appointment for 'common medical procedure' Forgiving K in school loans would free 36 million student borrowers from debt: data MORE said Wednesday, the day after he was sworn in, that ensuring that teachers are swiftly vaccinated so that schools can reopen is his “top priority.”

“We must continue to reopen America’s schools for in-person learning as quickly and as safely as possible. The president recognizes this, which is why he took bold action yesterday to get teachers and school staff vaccinated quickly,” Cardona said while touring a Connecticut school with first lady Jill BidenJill BidenBidens attend grandson's confirmation DC goes to the dogs — Major and Champ, that is The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - Biden to Putin: Tough sanctions, straight talk MORE.

“As secretary of Education, that is my top priority,” he added.

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His remarks came after President BidenJoe BidenGraham: 'I could not disagree more' with Trump support of Afghanistan troop withdrawal Obama, Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley team up to urge communities of color to get coronavirus vaccine Biden to hold second meeting with bipartisan lawmakers on infrastructure MORE on Tuesday called on all states to prioritize teachers for COVID-19 vaccinations in order for all teachers and school staff to have received at least one dose of vaccine by the end of this month.

More than half of U.S. states have already prioritized teachers for vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that teacher vaccinations are not a condition for reopening schools but has encouraged state and local governments to give priority to teachers.

"We can reopen schools if the right steps are taken even before employees are vaccinated, but time and again, we've heard from educators and parents that have anxieties about that," the president said Tuesday. "So as yet another move to help accelerate the safe reopening of our schools, let's treat in-person learning like an essential service that it is."

The trip on Wednesday represented an effort by the Biden administration to show support for schools as they take steps to reopen. Biden has set a goal for most schools to physically reopen in his first 100 days in office.

Cardona and the first lady toured Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Meriden, Conn., and were also scheduled to visit Fort LeBoeuf Middle School in Waterford, Pa., later Wednesday afternoon.

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Jill Biden, a community college professor, has made education one of her key focuses as first lady.

“Teachers want to be back. We want to be back.  Last week I said to my students, ‘hey guys, how you doing?’ And they said ‘Dr. B, We’re doing OK, but we can’t wait to be back to the classroom,’” she said Wednesday.

She stressed the need to vaccinate the country’s teachers and for Congress to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief proposal, which the Senate is taking up this week.