Credit: Andrew Reed/EdSource
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond during a staff interview at EdSource.

California schools will not be able to reopen safely next school year unless they receive additional federal dollars, said California Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond on Wednesday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed May budget revision would reduce funding to school districts by about $7 billion. The proposal includes a cut of $6.5 billion that is allocated through the Local Control Funding Formula, which directs additional funding to high-needs students — low-income, foster and homeless students, and English learners.

“We believe our school districts can’t reopen safely if they have to implement these kinds of cuts,” Thurmond said. 

Students, teachers and staff will need masks and hand sanitizer, Thurmond said. Schools will need to be sanitized every day, sometimes multiple times a day, and class sizes will need to be smaller to maintain 6 feet between everyone in the class.

Despite a suggestion from Newsom that schools start early to make up for learning loss during school closures, Thurmond said most districts plan to open on their usual fall opening dates in late August or early September, but that in some cases instruction could include some in-class instruction and some distance learning. 

“All of our focus on reopening is first and foremost safety for our students and for our educators and for our families,” Thurmond said.

The cost of reopening with social distancing, alternate school schedules and other safety guidelines will be costly for districts already struggling with budget cuts, said Kindra Britt, deputy superintendent of communications for the California Department of Education. 

The department is relying on federal dollars, including funds from the HEROES (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions) Act and more funds from the CARES Act, the first stimulus bill Congress approved in March, to make up for state budget cuts, Britt said.

Thurmond and other department of education officials are working with legislators and the governor to look at all possible scenarios, including what would happen if the federal dollars don’t arrive, Britt said.

“We will have to really have some tough conversations if we don’t get federal funding,” she said.

The state budget has yet to be approved by the Senate and there has been discussion about reallocating funds from other programs to increase education funding, Britt said.

Despite questions about funding, school districts and the education department are moving forward with plans for reopening. Decisions about when California school districts will reopen will be made locally, but there will be guidance from state and county health officials and the department, Thurmond said.

A California Department of Education task force that includes educators, education associations, union representatives and health officials has been sharing guidance about how to safely reopen schools with districts weekly, but will offer more comprehensive guidance soon, he said. 

Thurmond will host a videoconference with school district and public health officials Thursday to discuss districts’ plans for reopening schools and to share guidance. The videoconference can be viewed on the department’s Facebook page.

Conference attendees will discuss districts’ fiscal health, how schools will provide educational programs in the fall and how to ensure the health and safety of students and staff.

One of the unanswered questions will be who will pay for the personal protective equipment that will be required for staff and students, Britt said. “That’s what school districts want to know,” she said. “Who will pay for these masks and all the increased costs?”

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  1. Dylan 4 months ago4 months ago

    My child is in special education. This distance learning is a joke. He is learning nothing; all they use is Google Classroom.These schools are no way in hell gonna pull this off, especially in LA County. They can barely run the schools now and they are overcrowded. The school distracts and school unions have dropped the ball and have been dropping the ball for a long time. This is the final nail in the coffin. … Read More

    My child is in special education. This distance learning is a joke. He is learning nothing; all they use is Google Classroom.These schools are no way in hell gonna pull this off, especially in LA County. They can barely run the schools now and they are overcrowded. The school distracts and school unions have dropped the ball and have been dropping the ball for a long time.

    This is the final nail in the coffin. I’m moving out of state this summer. California is my home but it’s too far gone. I need my children to have a future. Childhood and freedom are not gonna find any of that in California anymore.

  2. MJ FLORES 4 months ago4 months ago

    Push for the 36 million owed by the state lottery. It’s something for now!

  3. Robert Tippett 4 months ago4 months ago

    This is not true. Schools can reopen safely without extra money from the federal government. Right now the research prove that children are in no more danger than they have been in the past. They are much more likely to be killed in a car crash on the way to school, yet are we going to change the way we do things as they relate to car crashes? I think not. This leads me to … Read More

    This is not true. Schools can reopen safely without extra money from the federal government. Right now the research prove that children are in no more danger than they have been in the past. They are much more likely to be killed in a car crash on the way to school, yet are we going to change the way we do things as they relate to car crashes? I think not.

    This leads me to believe someone is trying to benefit from this virus by promoting propaganda and begging for money from the fed.

    Replies

    • Shijian Zhang 4 months ago4 months ago

      Even if the student won’t get killed by the coronavirus what about the instructors or teachers?

  4. Randy Collins 4 months ago4 months ago

    Where is the lottery money? The liberals stole it all. And now you want to extort the federal government to cover your economic incompetence and embezzlement. There must be a thorough and complete audit of the lottery.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 4 months ago4 months ago

      Randy, the California State Auditor released an audit this year of the state Lottery. You can read it here. Unless you want to count the $212,000 free Scratcher tickets given to the Ellen Degeneres Show, you'd have a hard time making the case that "liberals" stole the Lottery money. The audit did find that the Lottery should have contributed $36 million more to education, but that amount would fill a fraction of 1 percent of … Read More

      Randy, the California State Auditor released an audit this year of the state Lottery. You can read it here. Unless you want to count the $212,000 free Scratcher tickets given to the Ellen Degeneres Show, you’d have a hard time making the case that “liberals” stole the Lottery money.

      The audit did find that the Lottery should have contributed $36 million more to education, but that amount would fill a fraction of 1 percent of the $15 billion shortfall in education revenue next year due to plummeting projected income and sales tax receipts.

  5. A55magic 4 months ago4 months ago

    There should be an option for those who want to continue distance learning until a vaccine is available. Our middle school child has asthma which makes a respiratory disease like Covid19 dangerous for her, and we are in our 60s and it could be deadly for us if she brings Covid 19 home to us. My daughter has been doing fine with distance learning and currently has all As and 1 B.

  6. Wood 4 months ago4 months ago

    You should just close all the public schools. Most of them haven’t done a decent job in 30 years.

    Let the private schools run the system.

  7. James Madison 4 months ago4 months ago

    Why would schools need to be sanitized multiple times per day if the CDC has stated that transmission of COVID-19 via surface contact is extremely rare?

  8. Susan Robert 4 months ago4 months ago

    I agree that there must be a plan in order for schools to reopen in the Fall. The safety of all school staff, students should be first priority. The bus companies that bring our children to school should also have a plan in place for the health, safety of each student bussed to school. Our young kids are our future, and they should always receive first priority in ensuring that their schools are safe to … Read More

    I agree that there must be a plan in order for schools to reopen in the Fall. The safety of all school staff, students should be first priority. The bus companies that bring our children to school should also have a plan in place for the health, safety of each student bussed to school. Our young kids are our future, and they should always receive first priority in ensuring that their schools are safe to return to school, and that classrooms are a safe environment for our kids to learn. For all staff to be safe as well.

    This includes busing companies and drivers are safe for our children to ride to and from.school each day. Buses would have to be sanitized before student pick-up, then sanitized after drop-off, the classrooms should be a sanitized daily. Our children are our future. We have no choice but to invest in our children, because they are our future!

  9. Linda Hedges 4 months ago4 months ago

    Back in the 1950s at least some LA City Schools were on half day schedules to accommodate the number of students vs the capacity of schools. Perhaps this is an era when half day school is called for again, to allow for social distancing.

    Replies

    • Steph 4 months ago4 months ago

      I totally agree

  10. Aaron 4 months ago4 months ago

    So let me get this straight: Many large districts were already in financial distress before COVID, especially due to unfunded liabilities, and unsustainable collective bargaining contracts. Many of us, including me, are extremely frustrated with my kids' schools that haven't done much during the stay at home, and then hear teachers saying they do not agree with the added work with stay at home teaching (I get it, trust me). But then, this means … Read More

    So let me get this straight: Many large districts were already in financial distress before COVID, especially due to unfunded liabilities, and unsustainable collective bargaining contracts.

    Many of us, including me, are extremely frustrated with my kids’ schools that haven’t done much during the stay at home, and then hear teachers saying they do not agree with the added work with stay at home teaching (I get it, trust me). But then, this means that parents have to take more of the work in their kids’ education and then be taxed more for it?!

    Remember, we all have to pay this money back…it is not free! Many of the schools were not performing good to start with!

    I think it is time to revisit the public school model itself now; we cannot expect taxpayers, who have lost their jobs and retirements as well to pay more for less of something that was not even that good to begin with.

    I am sorry that more money is needed, but my dollars are limited now and I want no bailouts for broken things…Time to fix it. Where is the leadership around this?

  11. stephanie castillo 4 months ago4 months ago

    Schools provide so much more than an education; they provide food, health & human services and a positive social structure. We need to put our tax dollars where they will do the most good…i.e. No $$ for people in our country illegally! It is OK to put our citizens first! Besides, the illegal population is provided for quite nicely in the public school system. Legal status is not required to get an education.

  12. Regina 4 months ago4 months ago

    Why distance learning? It’s already been proven that the kids don’t learn while doing it. Let them go back to school. We have immune systems for a reason. Cant build immunity if they don’t have anything to fight off.

    Replies

    • Gkal 4 months ago4 months ago

      Regina, if you think distance learning and online learning is not learning then why do biggest universities in our country have online courses and degrees. Sorry , I do not agree with you.

  13. Dan Plonsey 4 months ago4 months ago

    “Who will pay for these masks and all the increased costs?”
    Well, there’s this thing called taxes, which the legislature can impose. And there’s this guy named Larry Ellison who made $15 billion last year …