Some superintendents oppose Newsom’s reopening plan
Seven California school district superintendents have penned a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom expressing concerns about his Safe Schools for All plan, which would give additional funds to schools that return to in-person learning as early as February.
The signatories are all leaders of urban districts, including four of the state’s largest. They feel the proposal does not do enough to address the public health risks in large urban areas like Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Fresno, Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento.
The plan does not address the disproportionate impact the virus is having on low-income communities of color. It leaves the definition of a “safe school environment” and the “standard for reopening classrooms” up to the individual discretion of 1,037 school districts, creating a patchwork of safety standards in the face of a statewide health crisis. And it also reverses a decade-long commitment to equity-based funding.
As the Los Angeles Times noted in response to the plan: “It’s entirely possible that low- income schools will receive the worst of everything – no new funding, kids still stuck learning from home – while those in more affluent areas open for business and get $450 per student extra to boot.”
Our schools stand ready to resume in-person instruction as soon as health conditions are safe and appropriate. But we cannot do it alone. The past 10 months have been a well- documented struggle for millions of California schoolchildren and their families. “Safe Schools for All” is a start toward recovery, but we call on the state to acknowledge the following needs and take the actions necessary to implement them so all California children can receive the education they deserve:
- An immediate, all-hands-on-deck, public health effort to reduce the spread of the virus in low-income communities.
- A clear state standard for COVID-related health issues in schools, with a requirement for in-classroom instruction to begin when the standard is met.
- Public health funds, not K-12 educational funds from Prop. 98, should be used for COVID testing and vaccinations.
- School-based health services should be integrated with COVID testing and vaccination plans.
Learning-loss recovery plans, including funding for summer school, need to be established now. Reopening plans need to include specific funding for special education students.
A timetable and plan for vaccinations of school staff should be made public by February 1.
The state should begin to publish detailed information on school and district status in meeting COVID health standards, providing in-person instruction and school- based virus occurrences by February 1.