Large urban districts object to Gov. Newsom’s school reopening plan

January 7, 2021

A sign outside a classroom helps students understand what different facial expressions look like while wearing a mask at school.

Superintendents of seven urban school districts, including the state’s four largest, are strongly criticizing Gov. Gavin funding plan to allow districts to reopen classrooms as soon as Feb. 15.

They are urging the governor to design a different funding plan that considers their unique needs and warn: “If nothing changes, many students in high-need communities are at risk of being left behind.”

Their criticisms, in a Jan. 6 letter, indicate they won’t pursue the funding incentives for school reopening that Newsom tied to a series of requirements as proposed. The unified districts are Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, Fresno, Oakland, San Francisco and Sacramento City.

“A funding model which supports only schools in communities less impacted by the virus is at odds with California’s long-standing efforts to provide more support to students from low-income families,” they argue. “It also reverses a decade-long commitment to equity-based funding.”

While calling Newsom’s Safe Schools for All  “a start toward recovery,” their 7-page letter listed actions the state should take. They include:

The seven superintendents argue that under the governor’s plan they would be denied funding because of Covid infection rates they cannot control, they said.

Under Newsom’s plan, districts could not begin to send students back to school until the infection rates had fallen below 28 cases per 100,000 residents. That would currently exclude most counties, but rates in rural and more affluent districts will likely fall below the threshold sooner than in urban areas, creating inequities, the superintendents stated. It’s unlikely their districts could meet Newsom’s reopening goal of Feb. 15 or even March 15, they said.

Dozens of school districts in Orange, San Diego, Kern, Marin and suburban and rural areas had already starting sending some students back to school before the latest surge. Those districts could reopen, but they’d receive extra funding only if they adopt a strict testing regimen and a union-backed checklist of safety precautions.

The urban districts would get more funding per student under Newsom’s proposed equity-based formula — only it would be delayed until their infection rates fall below the 28 cases per 100,000. Meanwhile, districts like Los Angeles and San Diego, which have begun extensive testing, would not get reimbursed.

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