By John Woolfolk
Lawmakers are expected Thursday to approve a $6.6 billion bill aimed at enticing more public schools to reopen this spring, but it doesn’t appear to be driving districts around the state to bring kids back earlier than they had already planned.
While the bill offers financial incentives to reopen by the end of March, with decreasing amounts offered until May 15, several districts say their reopening timelines instead depend on two factors: teacher vaccinations and falling local infection rates. Both of those were underway before Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced their compromise legislation Monday, and many districts had already hammered out agreements with teachers’ unions that would be difficult to change.
Source: COVID: Teacher vaccination a main driver in reopening schools – Times-Herald
By Taryn Luna and John Myers, LA Times
Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders announced an agreement Monday to give school districts $2 billion to open schools for students in transitional kindergarten through second grade by April 1, focusing on California’s youngest children after almost a year of distance learning.
The negotiations wrapped up over the weekend, according to sources close to both the governor and the Legislature who confirmed its basic components.
The plan, detailed in Assembly Bill 86, provides financial incentives to school districts that offer in-person instruction in counties with fewer than 25 new daily confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, a threshold almost all California counties currently meet as the winter’s rapid spread of the virus had slowed.
Source: Newsom, legislators strike deal to reopen California schools
By Thomas Gase
When it comes to COVID-19 in Solano County, it’s like officials have heard three voices, just like in the 1989 film, “Field of Dreams.”
The first two voices say, “If you build it, they will come” and “Ease his pain.” Solano has hosted five vaccination clinics in the last two weeks at either the Solano County Fairgrounds or Benicia gym and giving out approximately 9,000 shots to people aged 75-and older or in the first tier of Phase 1, you could say the county has received that message and gotten work done.
It’s that “go the distance” message that seems to be confusing people. While many people want to return to in-person instruction with schools, distance learning seems to be the pick for the foreseeable future.
Source: When will schools go back to in-person instruction in Solano County? – Times-Herald
By Richard Bammer
A Fairfield-Suisun Unified official says that while Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed $227 billion 2021-2022 budget “is not without its challenges,” which include deferral of payments from the state to the district, it requires attention to a “critical cash management” in the coming months.
In a press release and an interview earlier this week with The Reporter, Laneia Grindle, director of fiscal services for Solano County’s largest district, said there is good news, too, even amid the pandemic and the virtual learning model.
In a Jan. 8 statement about the new budget, Newsom promised a commitment to “equity in and for our school communities,” reflected by the highest level of K-14 school funding in the state’s history, $90 billion, and targets the “inequitable impacts of the pandemic on schools and families,” including $2 billion to support a safe return to in-person instruction, $4.6 billion to help students recover from the pandemic’s impacts, and $400 million for school-based mental health services.
Source: FSUSD official: State’s 2021-22 budget presents challenges – The Reporter
By John Fensterwald
Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed his solution to a long-running, contentious dispute over the Local Control Funding Formula, the equity-based formula for distributing the bulk of money that school districts get from the state.
At issue is whether school districts can use leftover, year-end funding intended for “high-needs students” however they want. Newsom’s answer is, no, they can’t; the money must be committed to those students — who generally are the farthest behind academically and face the challenges of poverty — and districts must document that.
Some of those who have been calling for reform for years say the governor’s approach is a big step forward but not fully right.
Source: Gov. Newsom calls for closing big ‘loophole’ in funding for high-needs students – The Reporter
By Los Angeles Times
Gov. Gavin Newsom said he believes California schools can begin to reopen even if all teachers are not yet vaccinated against Covid-19, provided that proper safety measures and supports are in place — although some teachers unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles, have said vaccinations should be a prerequisite to resuming in-person instruction.
“We can safely reopen schools as we process a prioritization to our teachers of vaccinations,” Newsom said Wednesday.
“I’d love to have everybody in the state vaccinated that chooses to be vaccinated,” he said during a briefing held to announce the future opening of a new community vaccination center at the Oakland Coliseum. “Not only would I like to prioritize teachers, we are prioritizing teachers.”
Source: California schools can safely move to reopen, Newsom says
By John Woolfolk
Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers are in talks on a new path for getting more public schools to reopen as the governor’s late-December plan offering money and aid for those that move quickly to bring students back on campus comes under withering fire from districts, teacher unions and legislators.
Monday was the deadline in Newsom’s $2 billion Safe Schools for All Plan announced Dec. 30 for schools to file reopening plans and qualify for the funding, but the Legislature has yet to act on it, leaving its status in doubt.
And last week, a bill was pulled from committee that would set a requirement for schools to reopen within two weeks of case rates falling to the level state and local health orders say is safe to resume in-person instruction. Nannette Miranda, spokeswoman for Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco who authored that proposal, AB 10, said lawmakers and the administration are now working on a single compromise solution.
Source: Coronavirus: Gov. Newsom, lawmakers in talks on school reopening path – Times-Herald
By Jacob Jackson
California is on the verge of creating a cradle-to-career data system that could help policymakers identify effective educational policies while providing students and families with new tools to investigate college and career options.
With support from Governor Newsom, the Cradle-to-Career Data System Act in 2019 established an inclusive, transparent planning process that outlined how to build and implement such a system. To begin creating the data system, the governor’s 2021–22 budget proposes $18.8 million to improve existing data, develop the capacity and technology to link data across systems, and expand student-facing tools for college and career planning.
The completed data system may take four years to phase in, but it would allow the state to answer important questions, such as how prepared are high school students for college? What are the effects of financial aid on college completion and workforce success? How does early childhood education affect students in the long run?
Source: Newsom’s Budget Advances Long-Overdue Education Data System – Public Policy Institute of California
By Susan Hiland
A review last week of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget by the Fairfield-School School District shows both cause for optimism and concern.
Staff shared highlights of the governor’s 2020-21 budget plan for the coming year at the school board meeting Thursday. The discussion was cut short due to time limits for virtual meetings.
Michelle Henson, assistant superintendent of Business Services, gave the presentation, which showed that the past year’s $5.6 billion state surplus is gone and the budget reflects a $54.4 billion deficit.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun board hears overview of governor’s proposed school budget
By Evan Webeck
Following widespread and sustained reductions in COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout California, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday lifted the regional stay-at-home order that had placed the majority of Californians under some of the nation’s tightest restrictions for much of the past two months.
Hospitalizations have fallen substantially in nearly every region of California to the point where, this past weekend, there were fewer COVID-positive patients being treated in hospitals around the state than any point since the week prior to Christmas. Cases, too, are coming at their slowest rate since the second week of December. However, the hardest-hit regions are still averaging more infections and have more patients hospitalized and in intensive-care units than before the order was put in place, according to data compiled by this news organization.
Source: Coronavirus: Major improvements in cases, hospitalizations in California prompt lifting of stay-at-home order – The Reporter
By John Fensterwald, EdSource
Five statewide organizations representing school districts and county offices of education that had refrained from commenting on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to entice school districts to begin reopening are urging major revisions they say would make the plan feasible.
They issued a letter to Newsom outlining the revisions on Tuesday, two days before the state Senate will begin hearings that will determine if or when the governor can move forward with the plan.
Newsom is proposing $2 billion in incentives to districts that adopt a safety and health protection plan, comprehensive Covid testing procedures and a schedule to phase in the return of elementary students. Starting with transitional kindergarten through 3rd grade, they would commit to bring back students for in-person instruction starting Feb. 15, if infection rates in their counties have fallen by then — or to postpone until they do.
Source: More school organizations urge revising Gov. Newsom’s reopening plan – The Reporter
By Susan Hiland
A long-awaited decision by the Fairfield-Suisun School District governing board to either return to in-person learning or to continue distance learning is going to have to wait due recent changes from the state.
Schools are currently prohibited across the Bay Area from going to in-person learning due to the governor’s stay-at-home order.
The staff recommended that the governing board table consideration of reopening plans Thursday night until the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “Safe Schools for All” plan is approved by the Legislature. This would allow the school board to consider the state plan as an option for reopening.
Source: Fairfield-Suisun school board tables talks on resumption of in-person learning
By John Woolfolk
California officials Thursday ordered schools statewide to begin reporting new coronavirus cases within 24 hours and their reopening status every two weeks as part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s broader effort to spur a return of kids to the classroom.
That effort marks a change from last summer when the state was encouraging schools to start the new school year in online-only “distance learning” and had no plans to comprehensively track school cases or reopening. Districts and teacher unions have cited a lack of information about school outbreaks and reopenings as a concern. The infection information is to be reported to the state effective immediately and the reopening status starting Jan. 25, but it was unclear how much would be publicly available and when.
“Getting our kids and staff back into the classroom safely will help us continue turning the corner on this pandemic,” Newsom said in a statement.
Source: Coronavirus: California details plan to track school cases, reopening – The Reporter
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond today issued the following statement in response to Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed education budget for the fiscal year 2021–22:“
At a time when a global pandemic has created extraordinary challenges for our students, families, and educators, the weeks and months ahead represent the most important moment for public education in a lifetime. The investments we choose must help our schools urgently and immediately recover from this crisis and accelerate learning for the students and families hardest hit by a global pandemic that has deepened historic inequities. Our priorities should not only help our schools emerge safely from the impacts of COVID-19, but should immediately double down on our efforts to level the playing field for a generation of students.
“I want to thank Governor Gavin Newsom for proposing a budget that—until our educators, school employees and communities are vaccinated—addresses main areas of need as public schools consider how to safely resume in-person instruction. Today’s budget proposal also represents a strong start at tackling the growing access and learning gaps experienced most severely among our students of color, low-income households, children with disabilities, and students learning English.
Source: Thurmond’s Statement on Governor’s Proposed Budget – Year 2021 (CA Dept of Education)
By Thomas Gase
The entire world is like a song by the Kinks when it comes to the two new COVID-19 vaccines — who will be the next in line?
Earlier this week it was recommended that the answer to that question be first responders, grocery store and restaurant workers as well as teachers.
With Gov. Gavin Newson announcing on Wednesday a $2 billion package of financial incentives to encourage state school districts to resume in-person instruction as early as February, it’s a good chance teachers will be in the next tier.
Source: Are teachers next for vaccine after Newsom announces school plan? – Times-Herald
By Karen D’Souza, EdSource
California’s long-awaited roadmap to reshape early childhood care and education in the state took a critical first step on Tuesday with the release of a first-ever 10-year master plan, but some advocates say more specifics are needed to ensure progress.
Gov. Gavin Newsom made early childhood education a central focus of his administration prior to the pandemic and has maintained his support throughout the health crisis. The 107-page Master Plan for Early Learning and Care: California for All Kids, which its authors say would require anywhere from $2-$12 billion to implement, is intended to serve as an overarching framework over the next decade to overhaul the state’s childhood education and child care systems, which have long lagged behind those of other states.
Source: Inside California’s new master plan to reshape early education and child care – The Reporter
By John Fensterwald/EdSource
The first significant change to the state’s 7-year-old K-12 funding system, the Local Control Funding Formula, is a signature away from becoming law.
But if Gov. Gavin Newsom accepts the recommendation of his advisers at the California Department of Finance and ignores the Legislature’s near-unanimous vote favoring the significant reform, he’ll veto the legislation within the next few weeks. Hundreds of nonprofits and civil rights groups signed a letter last week urging him not to do that; signing it instead would ensure that funding for “our highest-need, most vulnerable students is actually directed to support them,” the letter said.
Assembly Bill 1835 would end what advocates for years have called a glaring loophole that undermines the funding law’s cardinal purpose, which is to provide additional funding for four groups of underserved students: English learners, low-income students, homeless and foster children.
Source: First big reform of California’s education funding law awaits governor’s signature – Times-Herald
By Sydney Johnson
Most California schools are preparing for a new reality of entirely remote classes this fall, after Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced that schools cannot offer in-person instruction if they are in counties the state is closely monitoring for coronavirus spread.
That means it is back to the drawing board for the many districts that were previously planning on offering a variety of options to students and parents, ranging from in-person classes and online instruction to hybrid approaches that involve a blend of both.
Distance learning “is a challenge in any experience,” Newsom said in his daily briefing on Wednesday.
Source: California school districts brace for an online back-to-school season – The Reporter
California has begun buying masks made for children as the state continues to adapt to life with the coronavirus.
The state has been sending masks to school districts since the start of the pandemic, and began purchasing child-sized masks last month based on feedback from the districts, said Governor’s Office spokesman Brian Ferguson.
“They fit better,” Ferguson said.
Gov. Gavin Newsom hasn’t issued any statewide guidance on whether schools should reopen their buildings, saying just one approach doesn’t work in a state with more than 1,000 districts serving more than 6 million children.
Source: California buys 18 million child-sized masks for schools as coronavirus continues
By John Fensterwald
Dissatisfied with the uneven quality of distance learning among school districts after they closed in March, Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature established minimum requirements for the next school year in legislation accompanying the 2020-21 budget.
For many districts, the school year will begin next month. With Covid-19 infection rates and deaths rising, some districts, including the state’s largest, announced this week they’ll open solely with remote learning or hybrid instruction, with some in-person and some remote teaching.
The minimum requirements include ensuring every student is equipped with a computer and internet access, taking daily attendance and interacting with students in some form every day. Proponents of the standards say they’re pleased the Legislature acted but haven’t given up lobbying for additional requirements, particularly more extensive online teaching.
Source: Parents must have a say in districts’ distance learning plans under new California law – The Reporter