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Today’s Headlines: The $2-billion school reopening push

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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.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders have announced an agreement to give school districts $2 billion to open campuses for California’s youngest students.

TOP STORIES

The $2-Billion School Reopening Push

After weeks of debate, California officials have 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. That would apply in counties with fewer than 25 new daily confirmed coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, which is a threshold almost all California counties currently meet.

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School districts in counties in the state’s red tier, with seven or fewer cases per 100,000 residents, would be required to extend classroom learning to all elementary school students and at least one grade of middle or high school to access all available funds.

But the proposal, expected to receive passage in the Legislature on Thursday, stops short of mandating that schools across the state reopen. Instead, it leaves the final decision to local education officials and, in some areas, subject to agreements between districts and the unions representing school employees.

More Top Coronavirus Headlines

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— The Los Angeles Unified School District will get the COVID-19 vaccines it needs by the end of next week to inoculate staff and reopen its elementary school campuses, state and local officials confirmed. Despite that news, the nation’s second-largest school district hedged on a previously announced target reopening date of April 9, shifting instead to “mid-April.”

— After a year of struggling to boost coronavirus testing, communities across the U.S. are seeing plummeting demand, shuttering testing sites and even trying to return supplies. Some experts say the country must double down on testing to avoid flare-ups from variants.

For more, sign up for Coronavirus Today, a special edition of The Times’ Health and Science newsletter.

Border Issues

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As with many international relationships, President Biden is seeking a reset with Mexico. On Monday, he and President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had their first meeting as heads of state, seeking to build a partnership to work against a persistent immigration crisis at their nations’ border.

The “virtual summit,” in which Biden and López Obrador spoke by videoconference, was Biden’s second meeting with a world leader since taking office, six days after his bilateral summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada.

Biden began Monday’s meeting by telling López Obrador, “In the Obama-Biden administration, we made a commitment that we look at Mexico as an equal, not as somebody who is south of our border. You are equal. And what you do in Mexico and how you succeed impacts dramatically on what the rest of the hemisphere will look like.”

López Obrador said earlier that he would promote a plan similar to the “bracero” program of the 1940s and 1950s, a kind of guest-worker system that allowed millions of Mexicans to enter the U.S. legally to work in agriculture.

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More Politics

— Lawmakers are expected to grill FBI Director Christopher A. Wray at a congressional hearing today that will delve into his agency’s handling of threats posed by domestic terrorists and right-wing extremists in advance of the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol.

— Congress begins debate this week on sweeping voting and ethics legislation. If signed into law, it would usher in the biggest overhaul of U.S. elections law in at least a generation.

— The Senate voted to confirm Miguel Cardona as Education secretary, clearing his way to lead Biden’s effort to reopen the nation’s schools.

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Neighborhood Watch

Violence and hate incidents directed at Asian Americans have surged across California and the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, with some blaming Asian people because of the coronavirus’ origins in Wuhan, China.

In the upscale Orange County neighborhood of Ladera Ranch, one family with young children began being harassed after moving in a few months ago. Almost immediately, teenagers swooped in for nightly visits, repeatedly ringing the doorbell, yelling and pounding on the door.

At first, the father and mother took turns standing guard outside. They installed a new fence and cameras. They called the police.

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But the attacks kept coming — until their new neighbors stepped in.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The winter of 1938 was especially brutal, dumping 11 inches of rain on Los Angeles over several days in late February and early March.

The damage was particularly bad along the banks of the Los Angeles River. The area had gone through a period of expansion and entire neighborhoods had sprung up, unprepared for strong storms. When the water surged through them, it destroyed homes, washed away bridges and flooded streets.

The event led to a re-engineering of the river to better divert flood water. Crews encased the banks in the concrete now seen today.

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the middle of a bridge is missing over rough water
March 2, 1938: A washed-out bridge at Colfax Avenue over the Los Angeles River in Studio City.
(Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

— How did a home built for Japanese American seniors become the state’s deadliest nursing facility? Columnist Frank Shyong dug deep for answers.

— A nursing home accused of illegally “dumping” patients onto city streets and into ill-equipped homes to take in more lucrative COVID-19 patients will nearly double its nursing staff, allow increased oversight and pay $275,000 in penalties and costs to settle a lawsuit brought by the L.A. city attorney’s office.

— The tiny city of Maywood has avoided the reforms that came with political scandals in neighboring cities. That might change after at least 11 people were charged last month with a variety of crimes.

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Ryan Fischer, the dog walker who was shot as he resisted being robbed of Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs, posted a long statement on Instagram in which he described the harrowing attack.

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NATION-WORLD

— The Boy Scouts of America, struggling to stay afloat while compensating tens of thousands of survivors of past sexual abuse, pledged to provide a victims’ trust fund with at least $300 million from its local councils and proceeds from insurance policies and the sale of a collection of Norman Rockwell oil paintings. Victims’ lawyers criticized the proposal.

— New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is struggling through a sexual harassment scandal that’s testing the limits of his party’s support. So far, few Democrats have come to Cuomo’s rescue. But they haven’t explicitly condemned him either.

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— A Paris court found former French President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling and sentenced him to a year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence.

— Political tensions in Armenia have heightened, with supporters of the prime minister and the opposition each holding massive rallies at separate sites in the capital.

— In El Salvador, President Nayib Bukele has consolidated power amid fears of authoritarianism.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

Soleil Moon Frye is the star of a “Punky Brewster” revival and the director of a documentary about her childhood. Confronting her past, including surviving sexual assault, has helped her rediscover herself.

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“Raya and the Last Dragon” features Disney’s first Southeast Asian heroine. It’s also a moving adventure, writes film critic Justin Chang.

— Plagued by scheduling issues, social distancing limitations and internal controversies, NBC’s telecast of the 78th Golden Globe Awards attracted the smallest audience since the event moved to the network in 1996.

Netflix is partnering with Ghetto Film School on a fellowship program that aims to give up-and-coming documentary and nonfiction filmmakers a major career boost, particularly for people of color.

BUSINESS

— California’s high poverty rate, low wages and frayed public safety net require a new “social compact” between workers, business and government, according to a report by a governor-appointed commission that highlights the state’s widening inequality.

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— Companies that sell refrigerators, washers, hairdryers or TVs in the European Union will need to ensure that those appliances can be repaired for up to 10 years, in a bid to reduce waste.

SPORTS

— With return of Dennis Schröder, the Lakers have shored up their defense.

— For former Angels great Tim Salmon, his second career as a high school coach is about “more than just baseball.”

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OPINION

— Los Angeles leaders like to tout their progressive credentials, but when it comes to housing and land use, the city is stuck in the past. They have a rare opportunity to begin to solve the affordable housing crisis in 2021, The Times’ editorial board writes.

— Biden has thrown a bombshell at Amazon’s anti-union campaign, columnist Michael Hiltzik writes.

WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— Even before the sexual harassment allegations against him, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was already staring down the third-term curse that befell his father and others before him. (Politico New York)

— Why do Americans have so many fridges? From extra storage to cultural tradition, a second or even third fridge is a key appliance for some families. (New York Times)

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ONLY IN L.A.

For those looking for a taste of normalcy in the pandemic, there’s some good news: Pink’s is no longer singing the coronavirus blues. The storied hot dog stand in Hollywood has reopened after a two-month voluntary closure. Autumn Streat, 65, who grew up eating at the Pink’s Hot Dogs stand in the Melrose area, said being back for the reopening “feels like a hug.”

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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