San Francisco lawmakers: Our city schools exploited state reopening law

Stairs lead to the entrance of Abraham Lincoln High School on December 17, 2020 in San Francisco, California. | Justin Sullivan / Getty Images


San Francisco Unified offers some of the sparse classroom hours in the nation, despite the city having some of the lowest infection rates in the United States.


San Francisco lawmakers on Monday accused their own city’s school district of taking advantage of incentives to reopen the state, saying they were “deeply concerned” that one of the largest counties in California has made no real effort to protect the state To resume students personally.

Democratic Congregation members Phil Ting and David Chiu and Senator Scott Wiener called on the state not to grant the San Francisco Unified School District a reopening grant. In a letter to state inspector Betty Yee and state superintendent of public education Tony Thurmond, they called the district’s plan to bring grade 12 back for a handful of days “a poor attempt to exploit a perceived loophole.”

San Francisco Unified offers some of the sparse classroom hours in the nation, despite the city having some of the lowest infection rates in the United States. After months of negotiations with the United Educators of San Francisco, elementary schools in the district reopened to their youngest students in mid-April and to a limited number of high-risk middle and high school students on April 26th.

Earlier this month The district announced that all high school graduates will have the opportunity to return for hybrid in-person learning, starting May 14 – one day before the state deadline to return at least a full class of high school to qualify for a scholarship. Most of these seniors are only guaranteed “at least three days” of on-campus classes before the school year ends on June 2nd.

The district believes it will now qualify for $ 12 million state reopening funds and cited the code of education in its press release announcing the move. Of the district’s nearly 60,000 students, 19,000 have made some return to face-to-face learning, according to the district.

Legislators urge state officials to ensure that only districts that comply with the intent of state law receive the grants.

CA AB86 (21R) is offering billions in grants to school districts that reopened before April 1, and gradually reducing funding for each day school districts waited to open. A district not open for face-to-face tuition by May 15 will, by law, lose its entire $ 2 billion stake in the total state reopening fund.

Lawmakers said Monday in the letter that SFUSD’s hybrid, tiered plan does not provide “in-person tuition to the greatest extent possible,” as set out in AB 86.

“We ask you to ensure that these loopholes, which these funding guidelines are supposed to circumvent, are not allowed. We need the accountability and responsibility of our school districts more than ever,” the letter reads.

SFUSD Superintendent Vincent Matthews defended the staggered rollout, saying the district was struggling with issues such as whether it had enough teachers willing to return in person.

“This step-by-step introduction made it possible for us to provide our schools with intensive support, as they brought the students back into the classroom after a year of distance learning and in this way to learn. In each successive phase it was not entirely clear whether we had the necessary staff had to go to the next level, “said Matthews in an email. “After reopening our primary student populations in middle and high schools, we were able to assess what was possible for reopening a full grade level.”

SB 86 was a highly competitive deal struck by Newsom, lawmakers, and teachers unions. The heads of state tried a carrot approach to convince the districts to reopen with the prospect of additional government grants, and they chose not to require a return to the classroom.

California remains one of the slowest states to open this spring, despite having some of the lowest infection rates in the nation. The widespread availability of vaccines and falling virus rates eased tension between districts and teacher unions this spring. But that did not mean that all districts would open their doors. Some districts chose to stay closed for the remainder of the semester and forego state funds, while others brought students back for two days a week in a hybrid approach.

In order for schools to receive funding, they must provide face-to-face tuition to K-6 students and at least one full middle and senior class. School districts are slated to receive record amounts in the coming years as the state surplus and state coronavirus aid make the $ 2 billion state reopening grant less important to districts reluctant to bring back students are.

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