Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Friday that allocated billions of dollars to expedite the reopening of schools after months of struggling to reach an agreement with Democratic lawmakers.
The compromise offers schools that are bringing the youngest students back to classrooms starting this month for $ 2 billion. In addition, $ 4.2 billion will be allocated to reverse the academic and social impact of students who have now completed nearly a year of distance learning.
“This is the right time to sign this bill,” Newsom said during a virtual signing ceremony with lawmakers and education leaders. “This is the right time to safely reopen our schools for personal teaching.”
The bigger picture: Newsom and lawmakers have come under tremendous political pressure to influence schools. The students still haven’t returned to California’s largest cities, adding to frustration with parents who helped fuel a campaign to recall Newsom.
However, there is no guarantee that the bill will change things significantly. The reopening of the schools is not mandatory. This is a decision made between the local school districts and school workers ‘unions, and some teachers’ union leaders have already signaled their dissatisfaction as educators continue to fear infection.
Congregation member Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) admitted that the measure was “not the panacea” and could mean just 12 days of face-to-face tuition in Sacramento for some students by the summer.
“We’re going to go home to all of our districts and ask all of our districts to open up, use this money and do whatever we can. I know my San Francisco district is a big hurdle for me,” said Congregation member Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).
Despite this headwind, an improving public health picture is drawing the counties closer to reopening. Infection and hospitalization rates are falling as more Californians get vaccinated – and Newsom recently reserved 10 percent of the doses for educators to address concerns about risk of return.
“It’s not a final achievement. Instead, it’s more like passing a key class on the way to graduation. Now we can imagine the end,” Congregation spokesman Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said during one Signing Ceremony “We are starting to see the news where parents from district to district can learn about returning to schools that officials are planning for their children.”
What’s next: Districts are working hard to vaccinate their teachers over the next few weeks and prepare their campuses for the return of students after a year of absence. Some of the state’s largest counties have agreements with their teachers’ unions on a return date with a variety of security conditions.
But remarkable peculiarities remain. The Los Angeles Unified School District, the largest in the state with 600,000 students, has not yet signed a contract with United Teachers Los Angeles that made it clear this week that it has serious concerns about resuming this school year due to higher infection rates in some neighborhoods.
San Francisco Unified and Oakland Unified are also not ready to set a return date. And Sacramento City Unified is bound by a ventilation safety plan that its union previously found inadequate.