Photo: Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo
Gov. Gavin Newsom

In a surprise announcement Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom suggested reopening schools as soon as late July or early August to mitigate the loss of learning that all students — but especially low-income black and Latino students — have experienced during two months of school closures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That learning loss is very real,” Newsom said during his daily update on the coronavirus. “And from a socio-economic frame, from a racial justice frame, this is even more compounding and more challenging. And so it is incumbent upon us to think anew with respect to the school year.”

Reopening schools would be part of the second — and next — of four phases of returning life to normal. Newsom offered no further details about how an early start would work, how it would be paid for or phased in by counties where public health officials would have the final say on conditions for reopening schools. As he was speaking, a panel of finance experts and state officials was warning legislators at a budget hearing not to count on any increases in education spending next year, and that state revenue losses could exceed that of the Great Recession.

In a statement, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said that an early school start would have a double advantage of addressing “equity issues facing our most vulnerable students” and helping parents and caregivers “in their much-needed return to work.” However, he cautioned there could be cost implications: purchasing protective equipment for school staff and potentially hiring more teachers for smaller classes to meet social distancing requirements.

“If we start school early, we need resources to make it a reality,” he said.

Edgar Zazueta, senior director of policy and governmental relations for the Association of California School Administrators, made the same point. “The governor today gave the clearest indication today that (coronavirus) modeling indicates we will be able to get kids back in the classroom. We’re happy about that. But to be a reality, schools will need resources and support, and it will be easier for some districts than others to open early.”

Newsom’s affirmation that reopening schools would be both a personal priority and integral to post-coronavirus normalcy may hearten 760 nonprofit children’s organizations, advocacy groups and health agencies that asked Newsom, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Tony Rendon in an April 23 letter to “prioritize kids” in the 2020-21 state budget. They included ensuring “sufficient resources for the summer months to provide school meals and to address the significant learning loss that has occurred” as one of their asks.

In an interview earlier this week, Ted Lempert, president of Children Now, which organized the letter, had called on Newsom to issue an executive order for summer learning, similar to what he did last month when he told districts they should focus on distance learning. “Say it now: Make summer learning for students most in need a priority,” Lempert said.

But Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach, made it clear he favors traditional summer school. “It would be better for our students to take summer classes than to simply start the school year earlier,” O’Donnell, chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said in a statement. “Some students need summer school to make up for lost credits and to help boost their GPA to get into college.”

There is unanimous agreement among education authorities nationwide that there is an unprecedented need to start to reverse the loss of learning that students have been experiencing during the school closures. For low-income students whose lives have been most disrupted by the coronavirus in California, the need is critical.

“If not mitigated, the educational and economic disruption caused by this pandemic will lead to lasting academic and life setbacks for current students and those entering the workforce,” the Educational Results Partnership, a Sacramento-based data analytical nonprofit, wrote in a sober assessment.

An analysis this month by the Collaborative for Student Growth, which is affiliated with the research nonprofit NWEA, predicted a substantial impact from the “COVID slide”: a loss of 30 percent of the typical yearly gains in reading and, in some grades, nearly a full year behind in math. That’s the average; it will be worse for children under stress, without a quiet place to study and without access to the internet. In California districts that were caught especially flat-footed by school closures and have struggled since, students may go six months without quality learning.

The coronavirus is “exacerbating the inequalities we knew were there before,” said Pedro Noguera, who directs the Center for the Transformation of Schools at the UCLA Graduate School of Education & Information Studies.

For districts that have been struggling with vague and unfunded plans for distance-learning summer school, Newsom’s option could shift the focus to a more cohesive transition to the start of school.

School districts generally budget a small amount for summer school, to cover special education students who are entitled to year-round services and for courses to put high school students on track for graduation. Expanding summer school significantly this summer would take money districts don’t have — and quite possibly wouldn’t get.

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten has calculated a cost of $52 million for what she acknowledges is “a long shot”: a five-week summer school for elementary and middle schools and six weeks for high schools. Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner has budgeted $103 million for summer school but is $50 million shy of paying for it.

However, Newsom also may have to cobble together state and federal money to pay for additional weeks of school. He might commit a piece of the expected $355 million the state will soon receive as its K-12 and higher education share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that Congress passed last month. In an April 15 letter to Newsom, five urban districts, including Los Angeles and San Diego, asked Newsom to make “summer instruction to bridge the academic needs of students” one of the uses.

The CARES Act will directly provide California districts $1.67 billion, with the flexibility to use it to compensate for lost learning. Although that’s an average of about $267 per student, districts will receive funding based on their federal Title 1 enrollment of low-income students, with West Contra Costa Unified entitled to about 20 times as much as nearby wealthier San Ramon Unified. The new money will increase Title I funding by 87%, estimates Marguerite Roza, director of Georgetown University’s Edunomics Lab.

But districts will need that money to cover other unexpected expenses. San Diego Unified calculates it has spent $18 million just on buying new Chromebooks and refurbishing school computers it is distributing to 60,000 of its 100,000 students.

Newsom may be pinning his biggest hopes on more money from Congress. The last round of stimulus/coronavirus aid provided $484 billion for small businesses and medical testing, but didn’t include money for local governments and schools. However, education advocates are optimistic they will be next. A dozen national education organizations are seeking at least $175 billion for K-12 plus $25 billion more for Title I and special education funding for states. California’s share might be at least $25 billion. Newsom, in an April 8 letter to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, included a request that “several hundred billion” for K-12 nationwide be part of the $1 trillion in additional help for state and local governments.

An early transition back to school could offer several advantages that State Board of Education President Linda Darling-Hammond mentioned, without referring to Newsom’s plan, at the hearing Tuesday of the education subcommittee of the Assembly Budget Committee. One option could be for elementary and middle school students to return to the teachers they had before schools closed. Those teachers “are best positioned to welcome them,” re-establish relationships and diagnose students’ gaps in learning, she said.

But Heather Hough, executive director of the research nonprofit PACE, said that “to be effective, districts will need clear directives from the state on how the program is supposed to be implemented and the outcomes expected.”

“Lots of districts have requested guidance on what is expected with distance learning,” and haven’t gotten it, she said. The governor should clarify who’d teach the students on the return to school, how many instructional minutes there will be, whether it would be in-person instruction — “endless questions,” she said.

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  1. Marie 5 months ago5 months ago

    The proposal to start early is an insult to every teacher and student working their butts off right now to keep learning meaningful and expectations high. Why not just end the school year early if it’s that bad? Because it’s not. And how can distance learning less than 2% of s school year set students back 30%? That statistic has no logical foundation. And behind? Behind who? The entire world is going through this. … Read More

    The proposal to start early is an insult to every teacher and student working their butts off right now to keep learning meaningful and expectations high. Why not just end the school year early if it’s that bad? Because it’s not. And how can distance learning less than 2% of s school year set students back 30%? That statistic has no logical foundation. And behind? Behind who? The entire world is going through this. The students will be fine. There is no need to start early.

    More importantly, focus on the more pressing matter of properly funding schools so there will be enough staff and resources to even come back safely in the first place.

  2. Joseph Conley 6 months ago6 months ago

    As a student I say that we were forced to leave school grounds and were prohibited from leaving our houses. During this pandemic, we have stress and anxiety, and some are scared. We have these problems and are still doing assigned assessments and even bringing up our grades during this time. I think that we shouldn't be held accountable for our "loss of learning" and rather enjoy our summer as many of us have stayed … Read More

    As a student I say that we were forced to leave school grounds and were prohibited from leaving our houses. During this pandemic, we have stress and anxiety, and some are scared. We have these problems and are still doing assigned assessments and even bringing up our grades during this time.

    I think that we shouldn’t be held accountable for our “loss of learning” and rather enjoy our summer as many of us have stayed inside and followed the instructions you provided as we only left for essential needs. We can continue our school progress as normal if we want to return to our “normal” lives after this pandemic settles into a controlled environment.

  3. Jane 6 months ago6 months ago

    Please remember parents are exhausted. Work all day and then teach their children. Meeting teacher deadlines as well as their own work deadlines. Children are exhausted from the change and need a few weeks of fresh air and playing before taking on the challenge of another school year.

  4. Nicholas Rodriguez 6 months ago6 months ago

    I am an educator in a low income district and know from experience that longer days and extra weeks make no difference. I get students that are juniors and seniors that can't read past a 2nd grade level and they are talking about losing 30% of what they have learned? It all has to do with districts making up ADA to get the money for their budgets. If California really cared about low-income students, they would have … Read More

    I am an educator in a low income district and know from experience that longer days and extra weeks make no difference.

    I get students that are juniors and seniors that can’t read past a 2nd grade level and they are talking about losing 30% of what they have learned?

    It all has to do with districts making up ADA to get the money for their budgets. If California really cared about low-income students, they would have allocated the funds for technology years ago.

    Another thing no one is pointing out is the discrimination. According to this article, only low-income and vulnerable students will be required to go back early.

    Districts won’t have the resources needed to even open early. Did we forget there is a teacher shortage as well?

    Oh, and I almost forgot: Newsom never officially ended the school year. So what of district who are doing distance learning as regular credit? Putting time and energy to try and reach all students? Is distance learning a waste?

    If so end the school year, then we can talk about July opening school for everyone

  5. Mike 6 months ago6 months ago

    You want to send kids back to school early right. What about parents with underlying conditions? The kids come home and kill their parents.

  6. Shay 6 months ago6 months ago

    OK, these kids did not ask for the time off. They were made to take it. They are stuck at home not being able to see their friends or go anywhere and they are still doing their schoolwork. They should not be punished for the pandemic. These kids deserve their regular summer vacation and should not be made to go back to school in the prime of the summer. I understand the immediate need for … Read More

    OK, these kids did not ask for the time off. They were made to take it. They are stuck at home not being able to see their friends or go anywhere and they are still doing their schoolwork. They should not be punished for the pandemic. These kids deserve their regular summer vacation and should not be made to go back to school in the prime of the summer.

    I understand the immediate need for kids to get an education and learn but if more parents took time to help their kids, then nobody would be worried about this. The cost to start school early is so much and we taxpayers are going to be paying it back.

  7. Dan Plonsey 6 months ago6 months ago

    This would be a perfect opportunity to make the connection between need for funding for education and the growing economic inequality in the U.S. Where's the call for the wealthiest Americans to be taxed to pay for all this? Without that understanding, the most likely outcome is that we'll be told the usual lie that the necessary money just isn't available; just doesn't exist. And inequality will increase. Fellow teachers, we need to start planning … Read More

    This would be a perfect opportunity to make the connection between need for funding for education and the growing economic inequality in the U.S. Where’s the call for the wealthiest Americans to be taxed to pay for all this? Without that understanding, the most likely outcome is that we’ll be told the usual lie that the necessary money just isn’t available; just doesn’t exist. And inequality will increase. Fellow teachers, we need to start planning a statewide strike.

    Replies

    • Nikole 6 months ago6 months ago

      Yes, you are correct, Dan. I am a teacher and again none of these articles even touch on how we will be protected on a daily basis. Just because kids "can't really" get it is the biggest BS.They can and will spread it to others and staff members. We will be on the frontlines once schools open. Some lame guidelines will say: "Hand Sanitizer will be at every door, and kids will sit 6 feet … Read More

      Yes, you are correct, Dan. I am a teacher and again none of these articles even touch on how we will be protected on a daily basis. Just because kids “can’t really” get it is the biggest BS.They can and will spread it to others and staff members. We will be on the frontlines once schools open. Some lame guidelines will say: “Hand Sanitizer will be at every door, and kids will sit 6 feet apart.”

      Those aren’t guidelines – those are fluff lies to make society feel “better” about sending their kids to school in order for the economy to go back up. All business as always and no real guidelines.

      How are 5 year olds supposed to sit 6 ft apart…um that would mean only 4 kids in my classroom at a time?

      “They” better figure it out quickly or else there will be a major strike with teachers! #teachersSTRIKE2020

  8. Heather Williams 6 months ago6 months ago

    This is a great opportunity to leverage California's Expanded Learning programs (afterschool, before school and summer learning - different from "summer school"). Some schools may already have summer learning programs that can be leveraged and grants have been extended for these programs that they can continue to support students during this crisis. Additionally, the CARES Act and likely future federal stimulus packages will provide funds to California that can be used for these types of … Read More

    This is a great opportunity to leverage California’s Expanded Learning programs (afterschool, before school and summer learning – different from “summer school”). Some schools may already have summer learning programs that can be leveraged and grants have been extended for these programs that they can continue to support students during this crisis. Additionally, the CARES Act and likely future federal stimulus packages will provide funds to California that can be used for these types of programs. These programs can start to address the trauma and other needs of students so that they are better prepared to engage in more academic-focused content in fall.

  9. Striven Wartburg 6 months ago6 months ago

    For better or worse, here comes year-round school. The traditional model of summer vacation will most likely change from 8+ weeks away to maybe a couple of weeks staggered throughout the year. This could be done keeping the 183 +/- day requirement. We can and will debate the positive and negative aspects of this. Already much data and research on this topic.

  10. Roman Stearns 6 months ago6 months ago

    Rather than focusing on the "loss of learning," what would it take to be more asset-based in our analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 disruption? Can we celebrate (perhaps even measure and document) the gains our children have made during this period in terms of self-directed and independent learning, communicating across platforms, digital literacy, management of resources (time, learning materials), creative problem-solving, self-awareness, self-management, and more? Ultimately, are these competencies and mindsets at least … Read More

    Rather than focusing on the “loss of learning,” what would it take to be more asset-based in our analysis of the impact of the COVID-19 disruption? Can we celebrate (perhaps even measure and document) the gains our children have made during this period in terms of self-directed and independent learning, communicating across platforms, digital literacy, management of resources (time, learning materials), creative problem-solving, self-awareness, self-management, and more?

    Ultimately, are these competencies and mindsets at least as, if not more, important than the potential of “falling behind” in math, for example? With more flexible time, some children are reading more than ever, building critical literacy skills. Some are exercising more, eating more consciously, and promoting a healthy mind and body. Some are pursuing new interests, the arts, strategy games, etc. My 12-year-old started a car washing business and is learning valuable lessons about business, entrepreneurship, and customer service.

    Despite the huge hits to individual finances and the state’s economy, and the devastating loss of life, let’s recognize this crisis for what it can be – a once in a lifetime opportunity to disrupt and redesign our outdated education system. With no one to blame for the massive disruption, we can revamp learning in a way that is aligned with decades of research, experimentation and best practices.

    What could we achieve together? What new set of learning outcomes would better serve youth and society? What waivers to state policy would we need to allow districts to experiment with new scalable learning strategies and roles for students and teachers? How can we use this disruption to shift toward practices that we yearn for, but heretofore have been restricted by codified structural limitations – i.e., equity, student-centered learning environments and decision-making, local control, community engagement, and shared accountability?

    Let’s not waste this crisis.

  11. Pamela Van Velsir 6 months ago6 months ago

    As an educator for 23 years, I understand the concerns for our disadvantaged youth and their loss of hours of education. It is unfortunate that many have not been able to participate in distance learning during the coronavirus shutdown. These students do need the time to catch up, but the solution isn't to penalize those who have been actively engaged in learning or the teachers who are delivering the curriculum. Here in San … Read More

    As an educator for 23 years, I understand the concerns for our disadvantaged youth and their loss of hours of education. It is unfortunate that many have not been able to participate in distance learning during the coronavirus shutdown. These students do need the time to catch up, but the solution isn’t to penalize those who have been actively engaged in learning or the teachers who are delivering the curriculum.

    Here in San Diego, teachers have stepped up and been delivering curriculum online even as they struggled with learning new systems and how to deliver their curriculum through distance learning. Re-opening schools in late July or August will be a hardship for those students and teachers who have been working hard to participate in learning during this difficult time. It also does not take into account that teachers need time to plan and prepare for the expected changes in what school will look like when kids return to the classroom. For our students, it is important to remember that they have been sheltered in place and have not been able to have a vacation.

    Our families will also benefit from postponing school openings until September. Getting back to what we see as a normal schedule will give families time to get outside the home, travel, participate in activities, and move around the community. The mental health of both educators and our children needs to be considered in this decision. We all need time to refresh, regroup, and be mindful. If this doesn’t happen, staying motivated and engaged will be more difficult than ever. Opening schools earlier than September is not the best solution to the inequity issue. Offering summer school in those districts most affected by the inequities is a better choice.

  12. Leah wells 6 months ago6 months ago

    I would give anything if I could speak to Governor Newsom. I have never been more proud of a person like him – what he’s done has been remarkable. It reminds me when I was a child with nothing growing up in Shanghai.My parents came from Germany, so I appreciate everything that he’s doing.

  13. Jennifer Peck 6 months ago6 months ago

    We need to remember there are more cost-efficient models of summer programming that rely heavily on our vast network afterschool providers, many of which already planned to offer summer programming with existing state and federal grants, and are on the front lines of communication with students and families. We can do more with less when districts and CBO's are collaborating around summer program design and implementation, using some teacher time, but relying on CBO … Read More

    We need to remember there are more cost-efficient models of summer programming that rely heavily on our vast network afterschool providers, many of which already planned to offer summer programming with existing state and federal grants, and are on the front lines of communication with students and families. We can do more with less when districts and CBO’s are collaborating around summer program design and implementation, using some teacher time, but relying on CBO staff for activities they effectively do in a range of content areas as well as enrichment and recreation.

  14. Bob Capriles 6 months ago6 months ago

    Though I understand the motivation and importance of increasing the time students spend learning and the opportunities this presents, I'm not hearing about some of the related issues that will impact an early start. Most teachers are under a 10 month contract, roughly August through May. Starting early will require contracts and pay for those teachers to work longer. And I'm wondering if all teachers would agree to this, not because they don't want to … Read More

    Though I understand the motivation and importance of increasing the time students spend learning and the opportunities this presents, I’m not hearing about some of the related issues that will impact an early start.

    Most teachers are under a 10 month contract, roughly August through May. Starting early will require contracts and pay for those teachers to work longer. And I’m wondering if all teachers would agree to this, not because they don’t want to work, but because of what the currently unpaid summer months provide for teacher preparation for the fall. Yes, teachers do spend time during the summer months on their own time preparing for the start of school each year.

    In addition, I’m not hearing how we’ll address the child care needs of working parents. A number of my students are now working to help support their families as well as taking child care responsibilities for siblings or nieces/nephews. Until this child care issue is addressed, I don’t think more distance learning is going to close the gap of lost learning as my students will still be at home responsible for younger children.

  15. Graham Wilson 6 months ago6 months ago

    Is anyone considering the fact that teachers might not want to start the school year early? We are working significantly harder and longer hours under crazy levels of stress as we design, implement, and teach totally new concepts and curriculum through Distance Learning. The way the "Loss of Learning" is being presented by government officials is disrespectful of our efforts. I will already teach into mid-July with Extended School Year for my Special Education students. … Read More

    Is anyone considering the fact that teachers might not want to start the school year early? We are working significantly harder and longer hours under crazy levels of stress as we design, implement, and teach totally new concepts and curriculum through Distance Learning. The way the “Loss of Learning” is being presented by government officials is disrespectful of our efforts. I will already teach into mid-July with Extended School Year for my Special Education students. I don’t want the 20/21 school year starting in July. I need a summer break.

  16. Carl Cohn 6 months ago6 months ago

    I'm starting to conclude that a daily press conference is a really bad idea for both the President of the United States and the governor of California because it causes them to start doing stream of consciousness musing about topics that they know nothing about, e.g., injecting disinfectants and July school starts. Is it possible that our governor doesn't know the ramifications of his bizarre pronouncements for school and district leaders at the local level? … Read More

    I’m starting to conclude that a daily press conference is a really bad idea for both the President of the United States and the governor of California because it causes them to start doing stream of consciousness musing about topics that they know nothing about, e.g., injecting disinfectants and July school starts.

    Is it possible that our governor doesn’t know the ramifications of his bizarre pronouncements for school and district leaders at the local level? I was on a national call about ten days ago when one state education leader said that they’re telling their districts to be prepared to face budget cuts of up to 20 or 25 percent. If Governor Newsom wants to be relevant instead of just filling air time, he needs to start talking about exactly what the fiscal picture will be for California districts when they start school “next fall.”

    Replies

    • Jack 6 months ago6 months ago

      Mr. Cohn, given your many years as a professional educator, you certainly can appreciate the many challenges faced by school districts during these very difficult times. I share your concern about the musings of elected officials and agree that the fiscal impacts of these events require immediate attention and a plan of action if we want to avoid a fiscal crisis among education in CA. Having said that, I do take exception with your equating … Read More

      Mr. Cohn, given your many years as a professional educator, you certainly can appreciate the many challenges faced by school districts during these very difficult times. I share your concern about the musings of elected officials and agree that the fiscal impacts of these events require immediate attention and a plan of action if we want to avoid a fiscal crisis among education in CA.

      Having said that, I do take exception with your equating POTUS’s ridiculously careless musings about injecting poisonous chemicals into the human body with the comments offered by Governor Newsom. Your comments do not reflect well on your stellar reputation as a professional educator and in fact are beneath you. Clearly you are frustrated with the Governor’s comments. Pick up the phone and call him. That seems a more reasoned approach among leaders during this very challenging time. Stay well and stay focused.

      • Mark 5 months ago5 months ago

        Recall Newsom !!!!!!!!!!!!!!