On Sunday, Governor Gavin Newsom reached an agreement with state legislators over reopening schools on Monday, leading the way for public schools across California to get up to $6.6 billion by the end of the month.
Under the agreed upon plan, $2 billion in grants would go reopening grades K-2 by the end of March, with at-risk students such as the disabled, homeless, English learners, foster children, students without access to Wi-Fi or computers, and those at risk of abuse, coming back from all grades. This would happen to schools regardless of reopening tier, with even purple level counties, those with the highest infection and death rates being covered.
Counties in red tiers would have even more reopened, with schools eligible for the state grant funding having to reopen all elementary grades, as well as at least one middle school grade and one high school grade.
Schools that don’t reopen for in-person classes by April 1st will end up losing 1% of their part of the funds each day they don’t comply. However, schools will also get more funding if they have primarily low-income students, with the state even giving $1,000 in funding for each homeless student a school has.
The other $4.6 billion in funding won’t be contingent on schools coming back by the end of the month, but would go to schools returning to in-class instruction in general.
Vaccinations would not be required for teachers or students returning to the classroom, nor would teacher union approval be needed. In addition, testing would be needed for all schools in the purple tier, those districts who reopen by the end of March would be exempt from any and all testing.
“You can’t reopen your economy unless you get your schools reopened,” said Governor Gavin Newsom during a press conference on Monday announcing the reopening plan. “We expect that all of our TK-2 classrooms reopen in the next 30 days. We’re not waiting to get out of this purple tier to get our kids safely back into in-person instruction.”
A compromise deal between Newsom, California legislature
The deal is largely a compromise of two prior plans, including the Governor’s controversial $2 billion reopening plan that would have only given money to schools that reopened by a certain time and not others, and the state legislature’s Senate Bill 86 plan, which would give $6.5 billion but not set a deadline for schools to reopen to receive funding.
“Basically schools get more money if they reopen by the end of the month, but if they don’t, they’ll still get funding,” explained “Sarah,” a former lobbyist for a teacher’s union in California. “They’re doing the Newsom thing by giving the $ 2 billion and taking away money each day they won’t reopen, and then they do the legislative thing and still make sure everyone still gets funding so all schools can reopen safely. The message is clear though. They’re saying to reopen soon, as quickly as possible. Without union input.”
While the deal does not require vaccinations, many districts, such as the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), have made them mandatory for classes to return. In response, Governor Newsom said that 10% of all vaccines would be going towards educators as outlined in a separate plan on Sunday, a large part of why it was not included in Sunday’s deal.
“The Governor has dedicated access for 25,000 additional vaccine doses for school staff in Los Angeles Unified over the next two weeks, ” said LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner on Monday. “This plan will allow us to complete during the next two weeks vaccinations for school staff who are already working at school sites, staff who are working with our youngest learners and those working with students with learning differences and disabilities.”
The deal, which is set to bring back full in-class instruction for the first time since the pandemic began in March 2020, was also confirmed by the offices of Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) on Monday. School districts across the state are expected to announce new reopening schedules soon in response to the announcement.
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