Schools

Governor and Lawmakers Reach a Deal Aimed at Getting California Students Back to Classrooms

Under the deal announced Monday, school districts could get up to $6.6 billion if they reopen classrooms by March 31.

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What to Know

  • Most public school students in California have not been in classrooms since March 2020.
  • Many districts have struggled to reach agreements with teachers’ unions on the best way to return students and staff to the classroom.
  • The proposal does not require staff and students to be vaccinated. Districts are not required to have agreements with teachers’ unions.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders have reached an agreement aimed at getting most public schoolchildren back in classrooms by the end of March.

Under the deal announced Monday, school districts could get up to $6.6 billion if they reopen classrooms by March 31. To get the money, schools must return to in-person instruction at least through second grade.

Most of California’s public schools have not met in-person since March 2020 because of the coronavirus. Many districts have struggled to reach agreements with teachers’ unions on the best way to return students and staff to the classroom.

The proposal does not require staff and students to be vaccinated. Districts are not required to have agreements with teachers’ unions.

LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner has set a target date of April 9 for reopening elementary schools, but the powerful teachers' union --
United Teachers Los Angeles -- has not agreed to that date, which it said is
subject to labor talks. The union is demanding that all teachers and school staff be vaccinated before they return to in-person instruction. It also does not want
campuses to reopen until Los Angeles County moves out of the ``purple'' tier.

Newsom, who could face a recall election later this year spurred by his handling of the coronavirus, has been at odds with legislative leaders on the best way to encourage school districts to return students to the classroom. California can’t order schools to return to in-person instruction, but state officials can offer a lot of money to those that do.

The agreement sets aside $6.6 billion for schools that return to in-person instruction by March 31. The bill is a deal between Newsom, state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, all Democrats. It was confirmed by Atkins’ office. Newsom’s office has scheduled a formal announcement for late Monday morning.

The details of the plan are complicated and were confirmed by two state officials with knowledge of the plan who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about it publicly.

California counties are divided up into different coronavirus infection level tiers, with each tier having specific rules about how businesses and other public spaces can operate during the pandemic.

Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine began shipping out on Monday morning after the Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization on Saturday.

To be eligible for this new money, districts in the most restrictive tier -- known as the purple tier -- must return to in-person instruction at least through second grade, the officials said.

Districts in the next highest tier, the red tier, must return to in-person instruction for all elementary school grades, plus at least one grade in middle and high school, the officials said.

The bill would not require all students and staff to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom. And it would not require districts to get approval from teachers’ unions before returning, the officials said.

Testing is required for schools in the purple tier.

On Monday, a teacher vaccination site opened at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. Vaccinations at LA County sites were expanded Monday to essential workers in education and child care, food and agriculture, and law enforcement and emergency services. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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