News Alert: California: Governor Newsom, Pro Tem Atkins and Speaker Rendon highlighted a new $6.6 Billion package to reopen schools and deepen student supports following the COVID-19 pandemic.

By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews):

Source: Office of the Governor of California Gavin Newsom (Information):

California: Governor Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon highlighted on Monday, March 1st, 2021 a new $6.6 Billion package to reopen schools and deepen student supports following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The announcement regarding the new $6.6 Billion package to reopen schools and deepen student supports was discussed during a press conference held earlier today.

In a press release from the Office of the Governor of California Gavin Newsom, an agreement on a $6.6 billion budget package to accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction across California and empower schools to immediately expand academic, mental health and social-emotional supports, including over the summer.

Picture: Office of the Governor of California Gavin Newsom (Courtesy):

Since the height of the winter surge, we have successfully shifted the conversation from whether to reopen schools to when. Now, our collective charge is to build on that momentum and local leadership, and – just as critically – do whatever it takes to meet the mental health and academic needs of our students, including over the summer,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The Governor was joined by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and other legislative leaders at Franklin Elementary School in the Elk Grove Unified School District. The state’s fifth largest public school district was among the first to close for in-person instruction last year. Last week, based on deep partnership between school staff and leaders, the district announced plans to reopen grades K-6 in mid-March and grades 7-12 in early April.

Picture: Office of the Governor of California Gavin Newsom (Courtesy):

Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins said the state is facing two truths: that students need to get back in the classroom, and there is no easy solution to getting them there in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

These bills move us closer, and build on the Governor’s framework based on feedback that we’ve heard from parents, students, and school employees, including teachers. They keep the conversation going, both in the Legislature and with the Governor. We all share the same goal—to get students back into school safely. Schools provide more than just academics—they lend the kind of supports and social interaction that kids have been lacking during this pandemic,” said Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins.

Picture: Office of the Governor of California Gavin Newsom (Courtesy):

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said it was important to think of schools as more than just a part of California’s budget, as more than a safe daytime place for children to be and as more than a prerequisite to earning a living, and the plan is geared toward providing the resources and incentives districts need to ensure school can be all things, for every child in California.

“When schooling is done right, it does so much more. It opens worlds and challenges hearts. When education is wrong, it is we who have failed the children; it is not the children failing school,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

Elk Grove Unified and public schools throughout the state will be allocated $6.6 billion under the proposed budget package. $2 billion would fund safety measures to support in-person instruction, such as personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and COVID-19 testing. $4.6 billion would fund expanded learning opportunities, such as summer school, tutoring and mental health services. Together, the funds empower schools to develop and execute comprehensive strategies to both reopen and expand programs to address the social-emotional, mental health and academic needs of students.

All public schools 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, losing 1 percent of eligible funds every day thereafter if they do not. Schools in the state’s Red Tier or better 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. Together, these requirements help ensure schools begin to reopen as soon as possible, in order to build trust and confidence to continue phased reopenings.

As students return to in-person instruction, all public schools would also be empowered to meet the needs of the whole child. The Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants allocate $4.6 billion to local educational agencies based on the equity-based Local Control Funding Formula, with an additional $1,000 for each homeless student. These funds would be for supplemental instruction and support for social and emotional well-being. Schools would be able to use the funds for providing more instructional time, such as summer school, and accelerating progress to close learning gaps through tutoring, learning recovery programs, mental health services, access to school meal programs, programs to address pupil trauma and social-emotional learning, supports for credit-deficient students and more.

The package would also codify multiple successful state programs to support safe school reopenings:

  • Vaccine Prioritization for K-12 School Staff. The package codifies the Governor’s commitment to set aside 10 percent of vaccines for education workers. This commitment ensures that the state prioritization of school staff, in place since January, is made real in all 58 counties. Since the Governor’s announcement two weeks ago, the state has collaborated with county health departments, the Biden Administration and providers such as Kaiser Permanente to accelerate vaccine access for K-12 school staff starting March 1.
  • Data Reporting. The package codifies data reporting requirements, including requirements for schools to report reopening status and COVID-19 safety measures. These statutory requirements will help build on efforts to increase transparency, including interactive geospatial maps displayed on the Safe Schools Hub.
  • State Safe Schools Team. The package also allocates $25 million to the State Safe Schools Team, which serves to provide technical assistance, oversight and accountability to the over 10,000 public schools in the state. The capacity will enhance the Team’s reach, and the Team will conduct a safety review of any school with two or more COVID-19 outbreaks.

The budget package is the result of months of work by the Governor’s Office, Senate and Assembly. The Governor, Senate Pro Tem Atkins and Assembly Speaker Rendon also thanked Senators Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), John Laird (D-Santa Cruz) and Connie Leyva (D-Chino), along with Assemblymembers Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) for their tireless work and leadership on this effort.

The state’s efforts to accelerate safe school reopenings to date include delivery of three months of PPE and safety supplies to all schools at no cost, direct support to over 1,000 schools in 41 counties to implement COVID-19 testing and direct technical assistance to over 300 school districts.

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