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California’s $2-billion school reopening plan: What you need to know

Protesters outside the West L.A. Federal Building last week urged the L.A. Unified School District to reopen schools.
Protesters outside the West L.A. Federal Building last week urged the L.A. Unified School District to bring students back for in-person instruction.
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

After weeks of debate, California officials on Monday announced details of a plan to offer school districts $2 billion to reopen elementary schools for in-person learning.

The plan unveiled by Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders aims to incentivize districts across the state to return transitional kindergarten through second-grade students to the classroom by April 1.

What it does: It 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 has slowed.

What it doesn’t do: The plan stops short of mandating that schools across the state must reopen. Instead, it leaves the final decision up to local education officials and, in some areas, subject to agreements between districts and the unions representing school employees.

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Here is the text of the schools bill.

This is a breakdown of the legislation, as described by the governor’s office:

  • Funding: The bill sets aside $6.6 billion for schools under the state budget. Approximately $2 billion would be given to districts as incentives to support in-person education, with the money funding safety measures such as personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and COVID-19 testing. Another $4.6 billion would fund summer school, tutoring and mental health services to make up for the educational effects of distance learning over the last year.
  • In-person learning requirement: All public schools in counties with fewer than 25 new daily confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents would be required to offer in-person instruction to grades K-2 for all students and for high-needs students in all grades by the end of the month, or lose 1% of eligible funds every day thereafter if they do not. Schools in the state’s red tier or would be required to offer in-person instruction to all students in all elementary grades and at least one middle- or high-school grade, or risk the same penalty.
  • Vaccine prioritization for K-12 school staff: The package codifies the governor’s concession to teachers to set aside 10% of vaccines for education workers. The bill does not require districts to offer workers vaccines before opening schools for in-person instruction.
  • Data Reporting: The package codifies data reporting requirements, including requirements for schools to report reopening status and COVID-19 safety measures.
  • State Safe Schools Team: The package also allocates $25 million to the State Safe Schools Team, which will conduct a safety review of any school with two or more COVID-19 outbreaks.

Source: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office


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