California education news: What’s the latest?

Friday, March 5, 2021, 4:59pm

Link copied.Newsom signs $6.6 billion schools plan with $2 billion incentive to reopen

One day after the Legislature’s near-unanimous passage, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a $6.6 billion plan to help schools address Covid-19’s harm on students during a virtual ceremony with legislative leaders who negotiated the deal over two months.

The package includes $2 billion of incentive grants for districts that open up their schools to K-2 grades and to cohorts of underserved students in all grades by April, including homeless students and students without internet access, with additional grades in weeks to come. (Go here for Quick Guide: California’s plan for getting more kids back to school)

“This package of funding and supports for our schools recognizes that in-person education is essential to meet not only the learning needs, but the mental health and social-emotional needs of our kids — especially the youngest and the most vulnerable,” Newsom said.

Parent groups that wanted Newsom to order schools to reopen criticized the new law, as did many Republican legislators who ended up voting for it. “It just doesn’t go far enough. My fear is that we’re not going to see kids going back to any type of real, valuable in-person instruction until next year,” said Republican state Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore.

Democratic legislators acknowledged that the offer of extra funding — anywhere from $450 to about $750 per student — may not work to resolve protracted negotiations in districts, including Oakland, San Francisco and Los Angeles, where teachers are demanding conditions and safety protections beyond those required in the law.

But they also said that Newsom’s commitment to sharply increase vaccinations of teachers and to remove obstacles to reopening in previous versions of the plan, such as mandatory Covid testing of all returning students and staff, should help expedite reopening in many districts.

The bill’s purpose is “to spur districts to do more. This is a positive bill. This is going to help,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, who was involved in the negotiations.

John Fensterwald

Friday, March 5, 2021, 3:56pm

Link copied.New California bill would ban suspensions and expulsions in preschool

Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, has introduced legislation, Assembly Bill 1361, to prohibit suspension and expulsion in state-subsidized preschool and childcare programs and to provide educators with access to mental health consultations. In keeping with the Governor’s Master Plan, this bill addresses what some early childhood advocates refer to as the “preschool-to-prison pipeline.” 

Children in preschool are at an age when struggling to regulate their emotions is a developmentally appropriate part of growing up. And yet preschoolers are expelled at rates three times higher than children in the K-12 system, according to a report from the Children’s Equity Project, a research organization at Arizona State University. To make matters worse, experts say this harsh punishment in early education disproportionately impacts children of color.

The key is that severe discipline at such early ages can have lasting consequences. Research suggests that children who are suspended in preschool are more likely to drop out of high school and become incarcerated, according to the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization.

“As a former teacher myself, I believe we need to ensure all our children are given a fair opportunity to succeed in their earliest school years,” Rubio said in a statement. “This bill helps address structural inequities in our early childhood education system by not only prohibiting suspensions and expulsions, but also by providing needed support to staff. I look forward to working with my colleagues and the administration on advancing this crucial piece of legislation for our children.”

 

Karen D'Souza

Friday, March 5, 2021, 1:49pm

Link copied.A quarter of veteran teachers surveyed consider quitting the profession

A quarter of veteran teachers are having doubts about continuing in the profession or are considering a career change because of their experiences during the pandemic. But 70% do plan to continue teaching, according to the latest installment in a comprehensive teacher survey by the Inverness Institute. EdSource is partnering in presenting the Teacher Survey Project.

While not necessarily representative of all teachers, the 121 participants, chosen from networks of teachers involved in leadership and curriculum networks, do reflect the gender, geography and demographics of California’s teacher workforce.

The survey was taken in late January, amid the Covid-19 surge. Asked to choose from among seven options, 12% said they’d return to school short-term but would consider other options; 5% said they would consider quitting or retiring; and 8% were split among leaving the profession ASAP, leaving if they’d have to return to the classroom during the pandemic, and not returning to the classroom once schools reopen.

“The teaching profession could be at risk of losing a number of teachers. While many teachers will continue to teach, some would like to change schools or districts. Others want to leave the classroom or move away from education completely,” the researchers concluded.

Among the comments from teachers, who were assured anonymity to encourage candor:

  • “I do not think I will leave the profession … but am strongly considering working in another educational role and not working in my current district.”
  • “I have thought about quitting, which is something I never thought I would think about. But I am staying committed even though this year is unbelievably difficult.”
  • “I plan on a career change if I don’t go back to the classroom.”

Go here to read more about the project and previous findings and here and here to read the latest reports.

John Fensterwald

Friday, March 5, 2021, 9:38am

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified to negotiate reopening schools with labor unions

West Contra Costa Unified intends to return to the bargaining table with its teacher and employee unions to reopen schools, Superintendent Matthew Duffy said in a brief announcement at a school board meeting Thursday.

The statement followed three hours of closed-session discussion among school board members. In accordance with state public meeting laws, Duffy announced the action taken during closed session, saying school board members unanimously gave “direction to staff regarding negotiations to reopen schools.”

Though West Contra Costa Unified officials would not elaborate, United Teachers of Richmond president Marissa Glidden clarified that the board’s decision was to negotiate a return to in-person instruction in the spring. Glidden said teachers are “eager for a safe return to school buildings” and that the union seeks to create a plan in which teachers may volunteer to work in person, and high needs students are prioritized.

“We know that educators are working tirelessly to serve their students and any plan must not significantly reduce the quality or amount of instruction that students who remain in distance learning will receive,” Glidden said.

A group of parents that had been for months pressuring the district to reopen celebrated the announcement. They had criticized the district’s distance learning contract with its unions — which was agreed upon in the fall of 2020 — for being too stringent to allow for in-person instruction this school year. The contract called for a return to in-person instruction only when three conditions were met: all zip codes within the district were in the orange or “moderate” tier on the state’s reopening tier system for 21 consecutive days; the case rates in surrounding counties of Alameda and Solano counties dropped below 10 per 100,000 population; and the positivity rate dropped below 3%. Contra Costa County remained in the purple or “widespread” tier as of March 5.

School board members Demetrio Gonzalez-Hoy and Mister Phillips said they were in favor of moving toward reopening before the end of the school year. Gonzalez-Hoy said he would want the district to start by only bringing students back in small cohorts, with teachers returning to the classroom on a voluntary basis. Phillips said he would like the district to offer in-person instruction by April 1 to preschool through sixth grade, and for the district to bring back as many middle school and high school students as conditions allow.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, March 4, 2021, 5:25pm

Link copied.New California license plate would support mental health services in schools

A new, specialized license plate would provide millions of dollars in extra funding for mental health programs in California public schools, under a bill recently introduced in the state Senate.

Senate bill 21, introduced by Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, would require the California Department of Education to apply for the specialized license plate through the Department of Motor Vehicles. Motorists could select the new license plate when they renew their vehicle registration, with fees going toward the Department of Education for student mental health programs such as wellness centers.

Proceeds from the license plate, which was designed by a high school student in San Ramon, would support mental health services in California public schools. The campaign was inspired in part by the death of Colin Wiseman, a Contra Costa County 15-year-old who committed suicide in 2013.

The Department of Motor Vehicles estimates the license plate would generate between $4 million and $10 million a year.

“There is a definite lack of preventative mental health programs available for our students in California. The lack of adequate funding continues to create a barrier to care especially for those in underserved communities,” said Gail Miller, president of BeingwellCA, a nonprofit that advocates for improved mental health services for children in California. “Our goal with the license plate is to help fund much needed Wellness Centers on each high school campus in California.”

California has one of the highest student-to-counselor ratios in the country, according to the American School Counselor Association. In 2018-19, there were 612 students for every counselor in K-12 public schools. The association recommends a ratio of 250:1. Funds from the license plate sales would pay for more counselors as well as other mental health services.

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, March 4, 2021, 11:40am

Link copied.California to lower threshold for ‘red’ reopening tier

California will make it easier for counties to move out of the most restrictive “purple” tier on the state’s reopening tier system by lowering the threshold to the second most-restrictive “red” tier.

The new standard relaxes the adjusted case rate to 10 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people from seven new cases per 100,000 people.

The change will go into effect once the state is able to administer at least 2 million doses to the lowest income zip codes according to the state’s Healthy Places Index, state public health officials announced at a news conference Thursday. As of this week, 1.6 million doses had been administered in those zip codes. California Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said he expects to hit 2 million doses within the coming weeks.

Only 16 counties were in the red, or “substantial” tier the week of March 1; the majority of the state remained in the purple tier, with only two counties in the orange “moderate” tier.

Schools can offer in-person instruction after remaining out of the purple tier for 14 days. Schools in counties in the purple tier may offer in-person instruction to kindergarten and elementary students as long as the “average adjusted case rate” is below 25 cases per 100,000 population per day in that county, and they file a Covid Safety Plan.

Under the agreement struck by Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislature this week, districts must then reopen all elementary grades and at least one grade in middle school or high school once Covid infection levels in their county decline to the red tier in order to receive extra funding for reopening.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, March 3, 2021, 5:46pm

Link copied.Medi-Cal to cover Covid testing costs of California’s low-income children

California on Wednesday became the first state to win approval for federal funding to cover the costs of Covid-19 testing for low-income children. The ability to seek reimbursement through Medi-Cal will defray the state’s costs of the tests performed by the state-run lab in Valencia and school districts’ testing expenses through vendors other than the state lab.

The press release from Gov. Gavin Newsom didn’t estimate the savings, but it should be substantial, since Medi-Cal provided health coverage for 50% to 55% of school-age children in California. Newsom’s staff has been working on the application for funding since December.

The timing is good. On Thursday, the Legislature is set to approve a return-to-school plan that Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, and Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, reached earlier this week. It requires school districts to offer in-person instruction to children in kindergarten to second grade by April 1 to receive a share of $2 billion in state funding for reopening costs. Districts must open up other elementary grades and at least one grade in middle and high schools when Covid infection rates fall to the “red tier,” the second-highest of a four-level state system. Asymptomatic testing of students and staff is not required, but employee unions in some districts have negotiated for extensive testing as an element of their Covid safety plans.

The state is covering the costs for tests of Medi-Cal students through the Valencia lab without billing districts. The current charge for the test is $21; the price has dropped by nearly two-thirds over the past two months, as the lab has expanded its capacity.

The Biden Administration made testing reimbursement retroactive to Feb. 1, which will benefit districts that have already opened and those, like Los Angeles Unified, that have been testing students in advance of reopening. Medi-Cal coverage will continue for 60 days after the end of the federal public health emergency.

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, March 3, 2021, 1:14pm

Link copied.New California bill would require employers to pay for backup child care

California became the first state in the nation to offer parents Paid Family Leave in 2014. Now, Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, has introduced legislation that would require large California-based companies to provide up to 60 hours of subsidized backup care to parents with children under 14. The bill comes at a time when many women are dropping out of the workforce to care for their children during the pandemic.

“Covid-19 has impacted women, and specifically women of color, at disproportionate rates,” Carrillo told CNBC reported. “Now, more than ever, is the time to re-imagine and rebuild systems that work for women and that work for families.”

If the bill passes, the proposed subsidized care mandate would go into effect Jan. 1, 2022. The bill, which would only apply to companies with more than 1,000 employees, would be the first of its kind in the country, as Bloomberg noted.

Some early childhood advocates have questioned the practicality of the bill given the scarcity of child care slots in the state and the overall complexity of navigating the system, but others laud the attempt to make child care more accessible for working families.

“Treating back up child care as a workplace support for parents and for employers makes economic sense all around,” said Lea Austin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment (CSCCE) at the UC Berkeley. “Such a provision goes hand-in-hand with access to paid time off and sick leave — working parents need options to support both their ability to be at work and also to take time when needed to care for their own children.”

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 5:04pm

Link copied.California universities graduating more Latinos, but equity gaps persist

California colleges and universities need to close equity gaps between white and Latino students if they are to increase degree attainment among the latter group, according to a briefing released Tuesday from Excelencia in Education, a national organization that advocates for Latino student success in college.

The report found that the state’s public, four-year universities enroll and graduate more Latino students than the national average — 57% in California and 51% nationally. But statewide, only 20% of Latino adults have an associate degree compared to 54% of white non-Hispanic adults. Within California, Latinos graduate at a lower rate than their white peers, 57% and 67%, respectively, according to the report.

Excelencia recommends that state policies adjust to meet Latino students’ needs and expand opportunities for them to get college degrees.

“We cannot just be satisfied with being Hispanic-serving institutions,” California Community Colleges Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said, during an Excelencia webinar about the brief. “We have to strive to be Hispanic-graduating institutions.”

California has the highest number of federally-designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions, at 176 public and private colleges and universities. Institutions with at least 25% undergraduates who identify as Hispanic can apply for the federal designation, which allows for more federal grants and aid.

Ashley A. Smith

Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 3:35pm

Link copied.Seven counties moved from purple to red tier

Seven counties were moved out of the most restrictive level on the state’s reopening tier system on Tuesday amid a weeks-long drop in the number of new Covid-19 cases.

San Francisco, Lassen, Plumas, Santa Clara, El Dorado, Napa and Modoc counties moved from the purple, or “widespread” tier to the red, or “substantial” tier, bringing the total number of “red” counties to 16. Two counties — Sierra and Alpine — remained in the orange, or “moderate” tier as of Tuesday.

The majority of the state — 40 of 58 counties — remained in the purple tier Tuesday. Those 40 counties include 785 public school districts and 1,136 charters serving a total of 5,446,535 students — 89.70% of the state’s total enrollment.

Under the state’s guidelines, schools can offer in-person instruction after remaining out of the purple tier for 14 days. Schools in counties in the purple tier may offer in-person instruction to kindergarten and elementary students as long as the “average adjusted case rate” is below 25 cases per 100,000 population per day in that county, and they file a Covid Safety Plan.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, March 2, 2021, 9:12am

Link copied.LA Unified teachers’ union opposes Gov. Newsom reopening plan

The president of United Teachers of Los Angeles, the union representing over 30,000 Los Angeles Unified teachers, called a new state school reopening plan a reversal “to deeply flawed ideas” and “a recipe for propagating structural racism” during a live broadcast on Monday evening.

The new plan, announced Monday morning by Gov. Gavin Newsom, sets an April 1 deadline for schools to reopen for K-2 students, plus $2 billion in incentives.

“If you condition funding on the reopening of schools, that money will only go to white and wealthier schools that do not have the transmission rates that low-income Black and Brown communities do,” UTLA president Cecily Myart-Cruz said during the live broadcast. “This is a recipe for propagating structural racism, and it is deeply unfair to the students we serve.”

The union has not yet reached a reopening agreement with Los Angeles Unified. During the Monday broadcast, Myart-Cruz reiterated the union’s position before broadly reopening campuses: LA County must be out of the most restrictive purple tier; staff required to return to work in person must be fully vaccinated; and safety plans must be in place. LA Unified Supt. Austin Beutner has made it clear that vaccinating teachers is a must before students return.

Union members are voting this week on whether they want to return to in-person instruction. The survey, which closes on Friday.

The results to the survey will be announced by UTLA on Friday night.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Monday, March 1, 2021, 5:22pm

Link copied.It’s official: Miguel Cardona is confirmed as U.S. secretary of education

The Senate on Monday confirmed Miguel Cardona to serve as the U.S. secretary of education. The former Connecticut schools chief passed swiftly through the vote, which went 64-33 for confirming Cardona, including 14 Republicans who voted in support of his nomination.

“Dr. Cardona has committed to following the science, and has agreed to prioritize bringing students back to the classroom quickly and safely,” Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina, the top Republican on the Senate education committee, said in a prepared statement. “Dr. Cardona brings with him the background, qualifications and temperament needed to serve in this position at a very challenging time.”

Cardona was born of Puerto Rican parents and previously worked as a public school teacher, principal and administrator before making the leap to become Connecticut’s education commissioner in 2019. He will be officially sworn in by Vice President Kamala Harris on Tuesday.

Cardona’s first major assignment as education secretary is getting the nation’s students back into schools safely after President Joe Biden made getting the majority of K-12 students back into physical classrooms a campaign priority.

“We were open and transparent with what we knew, and we made sure that we partnered with our health experts to put out very clear guidance early on to make sure that the mitigation strategies were very clear,” Cardona said during his confirmation hearing in early February. “I look forward to, if I’m fortunate enough to serve as secretary of education, to bring that same mentality of partnership and clear communication to help recover our public education and reopen our schools.”

Sydney Johnson

Monday, March 1, 2021, 2:05pm

Link copied.New bills would require full federal funding of special education

Advocates for disabled students are optimistic about a pair of bills in Congress that would require the federal government to fully fund special education for the first time ever.

The Keep Our Pact Act, introduced separately in the House and Senate, would boost federal spending on special education to cover 40% of states’ and districts’ costs, as required by the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act. The federal government hasn’t met that goal since the act passed in the mid-1970s, and last year covered only abut 14% of the cost. States and school districts made up the difference.

Introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Rep. Susie Lee, D-Nev., the Keep Our Pact Act would also increase funding for Title I programs, which serve students from low-income families.

Schools could use the extra special education money to hire more teachers, aides and therapists; improve training for both general and special education teachers; buy more technical equipment, such as voice-activated tablets; decrease class sizes; and raise salaries for special education staff, among other things.

“It’s a big deal,” said Lauren Morando Rhim, executive director for the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools. “The hope is that more money, coupled with accountability and data collection, will lead to better outcomes and help close the achievement gap.”

In California, students in special education represent roughly 13% of the state’s overall K-12 enrollment, yet they have significantly worse outcomes than their peers in general education even though the vast majority have no intellectual or cognitive disability. Students in special education had a 5-year graduation rate of 72.5% in 2019-20 — compared to 87% overall — and only 16.5% met the entrance requirements for California State University or University of California.

President Joe Biden, a longtime advocate for children with special needs, in June promised to fully fund special education if elected. He’s expected to release his 2021-22 budget in the next few weeks, which will include his spending priorities and signal whether special education is among them.

Carolyn Jones

Monday, March 1, 2021, 9:44am

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified to receive all vaccines needed to reopen elementary campuses

Within the next two weeks, vaccines will be available for all Los Angeles Unified staff who currently work at school sites, plus those who work at preschools and elementary schools.

“The Governor has dedicated access for 25,000 additional vaccine doses for school staff in Los Angeles Unified over the next two weeks,” said Supt. Austin Beutner in his weekly Monday morning remarks. “This plan will allow us to complete during the next two weeks vaccinations for school staff who are already working at school sites, staff who are working with our youngest learners and those working with students with learning differences and disabilities.”

Access to these vaccines will go a long way in helping the district reopen elementary schools for in-person instruction by its target date April 9. It remains unclear, however, if inoculated teachers and staff must wait for maximum immunity.

Negotiations with the district’s teacher union also play a crucial role in whether LA school reopen. Talks are scheduled for this week.

Meanwhile, a select group of LA Unified students, including students with disabilities and English learners, will return to campuses this week for small-group and one-on-one instruction in person for the first time since December.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Friday, February 26, 2021, 10:42am

Link copied.Youth under 16 can’t be tried as adults in court, California affirms

The California Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that 14- and 15-year-olds can no longer be tried as adults in court, which could result in a lifetime prison sentence, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The ruling came after a 2019 state law prohibiting youth younger than 16 from being tried as adults was challenged by prosecutors who argued that the law violated the 2016 Proposition 57, which allowed 14-year-olds to be charged as adults if a judge decided so based on the crime and the youth’s record.

Currently, the maximum confinement for juveniles is up to age 25. However, courts can place what’s called a “safety hold” after that threshold requiring placement in a medical center. The recent ruling makes California the first state to prohibit adult prosecutions of youths under 16, the Chronicle reports.

Tough sentences for youth disproportionately affect Black and Latino youth, according to the Sentencing Project, a group that works to reduce imprisonment.

“Now the state will focus on rehabilitating young people,” Elizabeth Calvin of Human Rights Watch told the Chronicle. “Youth who are sent to the adult system miss out on the treatment, education and services offered in the juvenile system. Youth kept in the juvenile system are less likely to commit new crimes.”

Sydney Johnson

Thursday, February 25, 2021, 4:22pm

Link copied.Juniors and seniors at Stanford University can live on campus this spring

Juniors and seniors at Stanford University will have the option to live on campus for the spring quarter, which begins in about one month.

There are already about 5,100 graduate students and 1,500 undergraduate students living on campus. Those students were approved to live on campus because of special circumstances. About 1,300 juniors and seniors have applied to live on campus during the spring quarter, which begins March 29. That number could go up.

In a letter to the campus community, Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne and Provost Persis Drell said the university would begin “moving forward with offering juniors and seniors the opportunity to return to campus for the spring quarter, with systems and safeguards in place to protect our community’s health.”

Modeling by Stanford’s School of Medicine “suggests that the trajectory of COVID-19 this spring is likely to be manageable,” they added. “We believe our campus is prepared to respond effectively to positive cases that occur.”

Drell and Tessier-Lavigne said the “chances are low of needing to make a change in this plan before classes begin.” They acknowledged concerns that students may disregard public health protocols but said they expect that the “vast majority of Stanford students, and hopefully all, will engage in responsible behaviors.”

Michael Burke

Thursday, February 25, 2021, 4:09pm

Link copied.California parents send letter demanding governor reopen school campuses

Parents representing more than 100 districts in California sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday demanding that he reopen campuses immediately.

“Our kids have been out of school for 349 days. We are rapidly approaching the one year mark of public school closures. It is time for action, not further negotiation,” wrote Megan Bacigalupi, a parent in Oakland Unified who’s president of the Open Schools California parent group.

“If you cannot reach agreement with the Legislature to reopen schools immediately, we demand action through whatever means necessary to ensure no child is left behind,” she wrote.

The group cites students’ declining physical and mental health, as well as academic losses, over the year since campuses closed. It also highlights the inequitable impact of campus closures on students based on race and socioeconomic factors.

Newsom should heed the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics on how to safely reopen schools, the group said.

The group represents parents from most of California’s largest districts, including Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, as well as smaller districts such as Mount Shasta Union in Siskiyou County and Pajaro Valley Unified in Watsonville.

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, February 25, 2021, 4:07pm

Link copied.Districts to decide who gets teacher-designated Covid vaccines; in-person workers prioritized

School districts, charters and private schools will ultimately decide who will get the teacher-designated Covid-19 vaccines, as long as teachers who are working in-person are prioritized.

That’s according to guidance issued Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office, which outlines how thousands of vaccines designated for teachers will be distributed. Newsom announced Feb. 19 that 10% of the state’s allotted Covid-19 vaccine supply — about 75,000 doses a week — will be reserved for teachers and other education professionals as part of an effort to reopen schools.

Starting March 1, education workers throughout the state will receive up to 75,000 single-use codes a week, which they could use to set up appointments on myturn.ca.gov. The codes will be allocated to communities based on two factors: the number of education workers in the community and the extent to which those workers serve children who have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, according to the guidance.

Education workers will qualify for an “expedited appointment” if they are currently working in person or will be in the next 21 days. The state is granting “flexibility” on the 21-day window, however, based on available supply in order to speed up the distribution.

The state will calculate how many codes will be given to each county office of education based on “student equity” — measured by its share of low-income students, English learners and foster youth — and K-12 staff size. The county office of education will then distribute the codes to school districts, charter schools and private schools which will distribute them to their staff.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 6:16pm

Link copied.Los Angeles County unveils plan for prioritizing vaccine distribution to school employees

In an effort to make sure vaccine doses are equitably distributed to school employees in Los Angeles, county officials plan to give public school districts 91% of doses that are available to educators each week.

Los Angeles County public health and education officials on Wednesday announced the distribution plan, which also includes a formula for prioritizing how many vaccines each district will get, by taking into account Covid-19 case rates, the percentage of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch and whether in-person classes, distance learning or small group instruction are being offered.

For details of the plan, go here. 

So far in Los Angeles, vaccines have been unequally distributed, with higher percentages of white and Asian American residents receiving doses than Native American, Black and Latino residents.

School staff members throughout the county will be eligible for vaccinations March 1. At that point, a percentage of the county’s vaccine doses will be set aside for those employees each week. With 91% of doses going to public school districts, the remaining 9% will go to private schools. That reflects the estimated amount of students who attend those schools, according to the county.

“My priority is to ensure that resources are directed through an equity lens to support student and staff safety on campus so that we can focus on recovering from the academic and social-emotional challenges created by COVID-19,” Los Angeles County Superintendent of Schools Debra Duardo said in a statement. “Working with our Public Health partners, I believe we have come up with a vaccine distribution plan that supports all our districts as they work with their labor partners to safely reopen campuses.”

Michael Burke

Wednesday, February 24, 2021, 4:38pm

Link copied.San Diego Unified sets target reopening date for all grades

California’s second largest school district, San Diego Unified, is planning to resume in-person classes for all grade levels on April 12.

The district’s plan is contingent on Covid-19 cases and infection rates continuing decline, as well as on all teachers having access to vaccines.

In-person teaching will resume in a hybrid manner, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune. Students will attend school in person part of the day or part of the week and attend classes via distance learning the rest of the time.

Families wishing for their students to continue with only distance learning also will have that option.

“Our plan to reopen classrooms in April is the result of groundbreaking collaboration between our city, our county and our professional educators,” Richard Barrera, president of the district’s school board, said in a statement. “From the start of this crisis, we have remained committed to reopening when it was safe and responsible to do so.”

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Unified is targeting April 9 as a possible reopening date for elementary schools across that district, which is by far the largest in the state. However, that reopening date is also contingent on vaccine distribution to teachers and other school staff. Superintendent Austin Beutner described April 9 as an estimated reopening date, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 5:52pm

Link copied.Nearly 1 million California community college students to receive emergency financial aid

Nearly 1 million California community college students may soon receive emergency financial aid grants because of legislation signed Tuesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Newsom signed a legislative package that includes $100 million in emergency financial aid for low-income students who are enrolled in classes totaling at least six units. Eloy Ortiz Oakley, the chancellor overseeing California’s 116 community colleges, said in a statement Tuesday that up to 950,000 students could receive grants “in a matter of weeks” as a result.

“The state Legislature and Gov. Newsom have put students first by approving $100 million in emergency grants for qualifying low-income students dealing with the devastating effects of the pandemic while pursuing their educational goals,” Oakley said in the statement.

In a separate statement, Newsom said the financial aid for community college students, along with other measures in the relief package, “will help keep our communities afloat as the state continues to confront the immense challenges of this moment.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 5:28pm

Link copied.Study in Fresno finds air pollution breathed by young children could harm their health as adults

Research on air breathed by Fresno 6-to-8-year-olds, most of them Hispanic, concluded that the impact of air pollution on children could contribute to higher rates of heart disease and other ailments in adulthood.

The study by Stanford University and published in Nature Scientific Reports is the first to examine air pollution’s effects at the single-cell level while focusing on both the cardiovascular and immune systems in children. It confirms previous research that bad air can alter gene regulation in a way that may impact long-term health, according to a Stanford News.

“It looks like even brief air pollution exposure can actually change the regulation and expression of children’s genes and perhaps alter blood pressure, potentially laying the foundation for increased risk of disease later in life,” said Mary Prunicki, director of air pollution and health research at Stanford’s Sean N. Parker Center for Allergy & Asthma Research.

Among the findings, the researchers found that air pollution exposure correlates with an increase in monocytes, white blood cells that play a key role in the buildup of plaques in arteries, and could possibly predispose children to heart disease in adulthood.

Hispanic children bear a disproportionate number of health ailments compared with other children, especially in California, where they are exposed to high traffic-related pollution levels. Hispanic adults have higher prevalence for uncontrolled hypertension. Future studies are needed to verify the long-term implications of the latest research.

Fresno experiences some of the nation’s highest air pollution levels due to agriculture, industry and wildfires.

John Fensterwald

Tuesday, February 23, 2021, 1:36pm

Link copied.Five counties move out of most restrictive purple reopening tier

Five more counties have been moved out of the most restrictive level on the state’s reopening tier system since last week amid a weeks-long drop in the number of new Covid-19 cases.

Humboldt, Shasta, San Mateo, Marin and Yolo counties were moved from the purple, or “widespread” tier to the red, or “substantial” tier, bringing the total number of “red” counties to nine. Two counties — Sierra and Alpine — were in the orange, or “moderate” tier as of Tuesday.

Most of the state remains in the purple tier, however. Those 47 counties represent 867 school districts, 1,240 charters and 5,859,664 students — about 96.5% of the state’s total enrollment.

Under the state’s guidelines, schools can offer in-person instruction after remaining out of the purple tier for 14 days. Schools in counties in the purple tier may offer in-person instruction to kindergarten and elementary students as long as the “average adjusted case rate” is below 25 cases per 100,000 population per day in that county, and they file a Covid Safety Plan.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, February 22, 2021, 3:43pm

Link copied.California’s new grading guidance aims to help teachers assess progress in distance learning

Teachers struggling to assess student progress in an online learning environment have one more set of tools to turn to. On Monday, the California Department of Education released new guidance and best practices for grading students during a pandemic and distance learning.

“As the majority of California’s public schools continue to respond to distance learning needs, we should reflect on how student progress is measured and consider how to shift to more equitable grading systems and policies, whether the instructional setting is in-person, virtual, or hybrid,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond. “This is an opportunity to make a significant change.”

Last spring, when school buildings closed suddenly due to the pandemic, many school districts allowed students to select “pass/fail” grade options or would not allow their grades to drop below where they were at just prior to the statewide shutdown. But this school year, most districts reverted to their traditional A-F grading models as distance learning continued. Then, rates of Fs and Ds in school districts across the state began to surge, prompting concern and revision of ongoing grading policies in many school districts.

The guidance released this week includes links to grading policies that several districts have chosen and adapted during distance learning, such as a “hold harmless” policy in West Contra Costa Unified to not penalize students for absences or late work and a standards-based approach in San Diego Unified. It also includes research around different grading styles that support and build academic confidence for students from different backgrounds.

Sydney Johnson

Monday, February 22, 2021, 11:43am

Link copied.Newsom lauds Long Beach’s plan to bring elementary students back to classrooms

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a news conference in Long Beach on Monday touted the city and school district’s efforts to vaccinate teachers for Covid-19, as well as setting a March 29 date to resume in-person instruction for elementary school students.

Long Beach is one of only four California cities with its own public health department. Most cities are served by their county’s health department. The arrangement allows Long Beach more freedom in setting vaccine priorities. The city and Long Beach Unified School District plan to have all elementary school teachers and school staff receive both doses of the vaccine by March 15.

Newsom said Long Beach’s prompt efforts to get elementary students back to school are essential for the city’s mothers, especially single mothers.

“There’s nothing more essential and important that we can do to support working women and single moms in particular than getting our youngest kids back into school in cohorts where we can do it safely, and Long Beach is not waiting around to do that,” Newsom said.

Newsom pointed to Long Beach’s school reopening plan as a “model” for other cities.

“I want to applaud, recognize that, and encourage that [model] to be replicated all throughout the state of California,” Newsom  said.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, February 22, 2021, 10:08am

Link copied.Biden nominates expert on college affordability to undersecretary in the U.S. Dept. of Education

President Biden on Friday nominated James Kvaal, an expert on student financial aid and college affordability, to be the undersecretary of education, the third most senior position in the department.

In that role, Kvaal will oversee postsecondary education policies and programs generally, including vocational and adult education, as well as student financial aid.

Kvaal is currently head of The Institute for College Access and Success, or TICAS, which focuses on student financial aid and college affordability. The organization was based in Oakland until Kvaal became president in 2017. The organization still has an office in Oakland, but is now headquartered in Washington D.C.

Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council of Education, who was undersecretary of education in the Obama administration, praised Kvaal’s nomination. “President Biden could not have made a better choice,” he said, describing him as “an innovative thinker, a deep listener and a collaborative decision-maker.”

The nomination is a sign of the importance Biden is placing on making college more affordable. His ambitious postsecondary education platform calls for making two years of community college free to all students, forgiving up to $10,000 in student loan debt, doubling the maximum value of Pell grants and establishing a new grant program to support “under-resourced” colleges that serve large numbers of low-income students. He also wants to tighten requirements for for-profit colleges before they will become eligible for federal student aid.

Like many Biden appointees, Kvaal held senior appointments in the Obama administration. When he left the administration in 2016, Inside Higher Education described him as “one of the architects of President Obama’s most significant higher education policies.”

If confirmed by the Senate, he will be able to take a crack at expanding on those policies, reclaiming several that the Trump administration either weakened or revoked, along with introducing new ones introduced by President Biden.

During the Obama administration, Kvaal was deputy undersecretary of education, as well as deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House. A graduate of Stanford University and the Harvard Law School, he was policy director for Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.

Kvaal would serve under Miguel Cardona, the commissioner of education for Connecticut whom Biden has named to be secretary of education, as well as Cindy Marten, who was superintendent of the San Diego Unified school district until last month, when she was nominated to be deputy secretary of education, the number two spot in the department.

The deputy secretary has considerable responsibility for day to day operations of the department, as well as for K-12 education.

Biden has yet to nominate the assistant secretaries of education who are responsible for specific aspects of educational policy.

California community colleges chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley was also rumored to be a leading contender for the post. But Biden appears to have chosen a Washington insider for the position, as is the case with many other appointments. That’s in contrast to the nominations of Cardona and Marten, who both come from strong K-12 education backgrounds as teachers and school administrators.

Louis Freedberg

Monday, February 22, 2021, 9:19am

Link copied.LA Unified to reopen next week for child care, small group instruction

Next week, Los Angeles Unified will welcome a small number of students back to campus for child care, one-on-one and small group instruction, services for students with special needs, and for athletic conditioning. It is the first return to campus in any form since a surge in coronavirus cases shut down all campuses in December.

In anticipation of this limited reopening of campuses, LA Unified on Monday launched a mobile application, Daily Pass, created in partnership with Microsoft as part of the district’s reopening plan. The application generates a unique QR code that can be used to enter school buildings for a single day after the individual meets specific health requirement, including a negative test result for Covid-19.

District employees, students 13 years or older and family members will also be able to use the Daily Pass to schedule vaccination appointments with the district’s vaccination program — which is slowly being rolled out — and register for vaccination waitlists, among other features, according to a press release.

“As difficult as the decision was to close school classrooms, reopening is even harder. We have to balance the learning needs of students, the support we provide to working families and the responsibility to protect the health and safety of all in the school community,” LA Unified superintendent Austin Beutner said in a Monday briefing. “We cannot — and will not — compromise on health and safety.” 

Beginning March 1, the district will open its second vaccination site at Hollywood Park, which all LA County public and private school employees will be able to access. The second site is a continuation of Beutner’s plan to reopen all preschools and elementary schools by April 9. He has tied that deadline, however, to the vaccination of at least 25,000 employees. To date, few employees have been inoculated amid vaccine shortages.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Monday, February 22, 2021, 8:53am

Link copied.More organizations voice opposition to Legislature’s fix for school reopening

In an effort to influence a legislative hearing today, eight statewide organizations representing school boards, administrators, county offices of education and school districts and, separately, a coalition of organizations advocating on behalf of low-income students and English learners, sent letters over the weekend panning a bill on reopening schools that leaders of the Senate and Assembly proposed last week.

The sharp criticisms, on top of opposition that Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed last week, raise doubts whether Senate Bill 86 can become law without significant changes, either through amendments or a deal with Newsom. Those negotiations had stalled by the end of last week.

The bill would provide $2 billion as incentives for districts agreeing to conditions and a timeline to open schools for K-6 by April 15 — or whenever positive rates of Covid infection fall into the “red tier,” the second-highest level defining permitted school activities. Similar rules would apply to the same deadline for bringing back cohorts of homeless and foster students, English learners and other specified groups in all grades most disadvantaged by distance learning.

Newsom made a similar $2 billion offer, but wanted to bring back students starting Feb. 15 in the most restrictive “purple tier.” Even though community infections rate are much greater than they are in red, the California Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have determined the conditions would be safe at that level, as long as safety protocols are followed.

With Covid infections rapidly falling in most regions, many school districts have begun to reopen or reached agreements with their unions for setting a date to resume instruction — even without an offer for more funding. The school organizations’ letter said SB 86 could jeopardize districts’ plans or force some schools to close by making reopening contingent on vaccinating teachers and by imposing Covid testing demands beyond what many districts consider practical. Their recommendation is to “do no harm” by not adding complications that will stand in their way.

The letter by the Equity Coalition, which includes Public Advocates, Children Now and Education Trust-West, said the bill “does not go far enough fast enough.” Agreeing with Newsom that elementary districts can open safely in the purple tier, it points to Long Beach and Santa Cruz City as districts planning to open in March. “The state too can do better,” the coalition said.

John Fensterwald

Friday, February 19, 2021, 2:51pm

Link copied.FEMA’s first mobile vaccination clinic prioritizes teachers in Alameda County

Teachers in Alameda County were among the first to be vaccinated against Covid-19 on Friday through a mobile vaccination clinic deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Office of Emergency Services.

The mobile clinic is the first of four the agencies plan to launch in California this week. Two are slated for Los Angeles and another is planned for the East Bay. The mobile clinic that opened Friday was co-sponsored by the Alameda County Office of Education and is the only one to prioritize teachers and other school employees who work directly with students.

In all, organizers expect to vaccinate 750 Alameda County school employees within the next few days. The mobile clinic will move to different sites throughout the county every few days.

The mobile clinics are an offshoot of the mass vaccination efforts at the Oakland Coliseum and California State University, Los Angeles. Appointments for vaccinations are available through the state’s My Turn website or by calling (833) 422-4255.

Carolyn Jones

Friday, February 19, 2021, 11:19am

Link copied.California sets aside 10% of vaccines for teachers, education workers

California will set aside 10% of its available Covid-19 doses for teachers and other education workers starting March 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday.

The announcement comes days after public health authorities allowed teachers and other members of Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan to begin making appointments to receive the vaccine. Due to a lack of vaccine supply, however, few counties have been able to offer it to teachers.

When the new plan starts March 1, the state will designate 75,000 doses of the vaccine just for teachers and education workers. The vaccines will also be prioritized for school workers who are returning to classrooms.

Ali Tadayon

Friday, February 19, 2021, 11:11am

Link copied.New state rules allow youth sports to kick off Feb. 26

Organized youth sports, which have been on a time-out for the past year during the pandemic, can resume Feb. 26 under new guidance from the California Department of Public Health.

But popular “high-contact” sports — including football, rugby and water polo — can be played only in counties with an adjusted daily case rate of 14 per 100,000 population or fewer. Athletes and coaches must be tested weekly and post their test results within 24 hours of competition.

Public Health officials said the new guidance is warranted since research shows that outdoor activities present “significantly lower risk of transmission relative to comparative indoor activities.” Still, officials said, competition between different teams also increases transmission across groups and outside of communities, which contributes to the potential spread of the disease.

For both indoor and outdoor sports, the guidelines require face coverings to be worn by coaches, support staff and observers, as well as athletes on the sidelines. Observers at sporting events must maintain a distance of at least six feet from people who are outside of their household. The guidance also calls on schools and leagues to limit spectators of youth sports to immediate household members.

Personal items and equipment as well as drink bottles must not be shared.

Teams are not allowed to participate in out-of-state games and tournaments.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 5:26pm

Link copied.University of California still planning in-person classes, more on-campus housing this fall

The University of California is planning for mostly in-person classes and expanded on-campus housing this fall, UC President Michael Drake reiterated during a webinar Thursday.

’What exactly that will look like will be determined by the behavior of the country and the virus over these next few months,” Drake said during a virtual conversation hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California. “But we’re hoping to be able to get classes back together in a modified fashion.”

Drake added that he expects dorms will have a “robust capacity” for students compared to the current academic year, though he conceded that the amount of available on-campus housing will likely remain below pre-pandemic levels.

He also said that the degree to which campuses can reopen dorms and resume in-person classes will depend on vaccine distribution.

“Part of our returning in the fall and what that new normal will look like will depend on continued effective rollout of vaccines and how widely the vaccines are distributed,” Drake said.

Joseph Castro, chancellor of the California State University, the state’s other four-year university system, has similarly said that reopening of campuses hinges on vaccine availability.

Michael Burke

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 5:00pm

Link copied.President Joe Biden unveils proposal for sweeping immigration reform

President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled his proposal for the first major push for immigration reform since 2013. It has been presented to the House and will be introduced in the Senate next week.

The proposal includes an eight-year path to citizenship for the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who currently live in the United States and a shortened process to legal status for recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, among other items.

California has the highest number of DACA recipients of any state. There are an estimated 4,000 undocumented students enrolled in the 10-campus UC system, about 9,500 at California State University’s 23 campuses and about 50,000 to 70,000 in the state’s 115 community colleges. About half of those students are estimated to have protection from deportation and access to work permits, among other benefits, under the DACA program. There are also an estimated 4,000 teachers in California with DACA status, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

“Millions of immigrants are doing essential work to help us get through the pandemic and are in urgent need of stability and relief,” Marielena Hincapié, executive director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement. “We urge members of Congress to move swiftly to provide undocumented members of our communities with a pathway to citizenship, including a fast-track for those eligible for DACA, TPS, or DED, and for essential workers and farmworkers.”

Betty Márquez Rosales

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 4:55pm

Link copied.Contra Costa County teachers now eligible for vaccines

Teachers and other education and childcare workers in Contra Costa County are now eligible to receive Covid-19 vaccines, Contra Costa Health Services announced Thursday.

Until today, the county was only able to offer vaccines to healthcare workers and people age 65 and older. Now it has the capacity to offer vaccines to other members of “Phase 1B” of the state’s vaccination plan, which also includes grocery workers and other essential workers.

Due to a reduction in vaccine supply, however, appointments at Contra Costa County centers to get the Covid-19 vaccine are booked for the next two weeks, Health Services officials said. However, teachers and others who are eligible can make an appointment at myturn.ca.gov or by calling 1-833-422-4255.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 4:32pm

Link copied.Lawmakers propose new school reopening plan set to begin in mid-April

After Gov. Gavin Newsom’s school reopening proposal was strongly criticized as unrealistic by superintendents of large districts and school employee unions, California legislators announced a new plan Thursday that aims to bring the most vulnerable students back into classrooms by April 15.

Senate Bill 86, dubbed the ““Safe and Open Schools Plan,” proposes $4.6 billion in learning recovery funds and $6 billion in federal reopening aid to begin opening schools to students in the spring. The Sacramento Bee reported that lawmakers hope to pass the bill Monday.

“Science clearly shows schools can reopen safely, and that there is no reason for our children to suffer under indefinite distance learning,” Assembly member Phil Ting said in a tweet Thursday afternoon. “The State Legislature is ready to act, based on this data, so students can return to the classroom no later than April 15.”

The new plan calls on districts to prioritize in-person instruction for certain K-12 students. These include those who are chronically absent from school or lack access to distance learning. It also includes homeless students, students at risk of abuse, foster youth and English Language Learners. The plan also requires counties in the “red tier” to allow schools to offer in-person instruction to all K-6 students. However,  districts can opt out of the program if they choose.

The plan calls for schools to allow families to continue distance learning if they still don’t feel comfortable sending their kids back to school.

The legislation would also require the California Department of Public Health to give priority to school employees serving students in-person in the state’s vaccine distribution system.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 11:14am

Link copied.Low-income community college students could receive financial aid under Newsom’s “immediate action” package

Low-income community college students will receive emergency financial aid under a $100 million program proposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders.

Child care and preschool providers as well as the University of California and California State University systems could also receive extra funding quickly under a $9.6 billion “immediate action” package announced in a news release Wednesday by Newsom, Senate President pro tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. The package is aimed at providing relief to individuals and businesses facing the most significant economic hardship during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The bills for the package could go before a legislative budget committee Thursday or later, with the senate and assembly floor voting on them as early as Monday, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Under the proposal, $400 million in federal funds to provide stipends of $525 per child for all state-subsidized child care and preschool providers. The federal funds would also extend childcare for essential workers through June of 2022.

Community colleges could also receive $20 million to reengage students who have either left their community college during the pandemic or who are at risk of leaving, according to the news release. The package would also restore reductions made previously to the University of California and California State University systems as well as Child Support Services.

The package designates about $6 million for University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges to provide outreach and application assistance for the CalFresh food assistance program.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 10:37am

Link copied.San Diego County clears school reopening threshold

Elementary schools in San Diego County could soon get the green light to bring students back to campus after cases in the region dipped to 22 cases per 100,000 — less than the 25 per 100,000 limit that California has set as a key target in reopening schools.

The case rate must remain below 25 per 100,000 for five consecutive days in order for K-6 schools to reopen. Schools must also have their reopening plans approved by the county and state public health departments, and the county is not officially accepting applications to reopen, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

Rates of Covid-19 cases in the county are still high enough to keep San Diego in the purple, most restrictive tier in the state’s color-coded reopening system. All schools are allowed to reopen without county or state approval if cases drop enough that the county reaches the less-restrictive red tier.

But even as cases begin to fall, it could be weeks of even months before students begin filling their seats in classrooms once again. In addition to maintaining a steady decline of cases, school districts must negotiate with labor unions and take into account wide-ranging opinions among parents and other community stakeholders.

Some school districts, such as South Bay Union Elementary School District in San Diego County, have already decided to forgo in-person instruction entirely for the 2020-21 school year.

“While we know that distance learning is not the same as in-person instruction, I am very proud of the amazing work that has been done this year by our students, families and staff,” Katie McNamara, superintendent of South Bay Union, said in a public letter this month following the district vote. “Our participation rates in distance learning, with the 1:1 devices we have provided for every student, have been very high. Thank you for prioritizing daily attendance and ensuring that our students continue to grow, achieve and succeed.”

Sydney Johnson

Thursday, February 18, 2021, 9:40am

Link copied.Database of learning pods includes two dozen from California

For the past year, a university-based education research center based in the University of Washington, Bothell, has tracked one of the novel outgrowths of the pandemic: learning pods. The Center on Reinventing Public Education released “It Takes a Village: The pandemic learning pod movement, one year in,” a summary findings from its database of learning pods, earlier this month.

Also known as learning hubs, learning pods have taken many forms, including elite in-person mini-private schools. Many of the 331 learning hubs in center’s database, including two dozen from California, were organized primarily to even the playing field for some of those struggling the most from distance learning.

City governments, nonprofits like the YMCA, school districts and philanthropies separately and together have provided tutoring, internet services and academic enrichment, mostly for younger children in small non-school, in-person settings. Some have fees with a sliding scale, while others charge no money.

“The small pandemic-driven learning communities have broken open many of the assumptions we have about what school looks like, where it occurs and who supports student learning,” the authors wrote.

The California learning hubs in the database include:

“Whether the partnerships forged in this moment endure beyond the pandemic remains to be seen,” the authors wrote. “But the necessity of leveraging community resources on behalf of children is unlikely to dissipate anytime soon.”

John Fensterwald

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 1:03pm

Link copied.LA Unified ends use of pepper spray, diverts school police money to support Black students

In a unanimous decision by the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education, the district will end the use of pepper spray on students, cut 133 officer positions, and divert $25 million from the police budget toward programs that support Black students. An additional $11.5 million from next year’s general fund will be directed toward this approved plan.

The majority of the funding will be directed toward hiring school climate coaches, counselors, social workers, and other support staff. Additional money will be allocated to 53 schools that were identified as high needs campuses and have also enrolled more than 200 Black students.

The approval of the plan comes after the board voted in June to cut the school police budget by $25 million and after other large school districts, such as Oakland Unified, made changes to their use of school police.

“We came to agreement today in large part because of the advocacy and persistence of Students Deserve, the Brothers, Sons, Selves Coalition, Black Lives Matter — Los Angeles and other community partners who showed us how to center Black student voices and experiences in decisions about their future,” Board Member Tanya Ortiz Franklin said in a statement.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Wednesday, February 17, 2021, 11:25am

Link copied.Biden clarifies goal for reopening schools for in-person teaching

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that his goal is for the majority of the country’s K-8 schools to be open five days a week for in-person classes by the end of his first 100 days in office.

“I think we’ll be close to that at the end of the first 100 days,” he said during a town hall hosted by CNN.

Biden added that it would be more difficult to open high schools, citing higher Covid-19 transmission rates among older students.

Biden’s statement was seen as an attempt to clarify earlier statement on schools reopening. Last week, the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, said Biden’s goal was to have most schools offering in-person teaching as little as one day per week. During Tuesday’s town hall, Biden said that was never his goal and called it a “mistake in communication.”

Michael Burke

Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 5:12pm

Link copied.Teachers union TV ads call for vaccines, safety measures before reopening schools

The California Teachers Association launched an advertising campaign today calling for teachers to be prioritized for vaccinations and for improved ventilation, Covid-19 testing and tracing, and adequate social distancing to be in place before schools reopen.

The television ads are coming out as Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislators continue to work out a deal on reopening California schools.

“The Covid-19 virus is still a very real and widespread threat,” said CTA President E. Toby Boyd. “While the pandemic has been a challenge for students, their families, and educators, no one wants to be back with their students more than California teachers and education support professionals. Reopening schools and classrooms before it’s safe to do so will put people at risk and lead to classroom closures and quarantined staff, students and, in some cases, entire schools. Schools must have the resources they need for layers of protection that include prioritizing educators for vaccine distribution.”

The advertising campaign, in both English and Spanish, is the latest effort by the union to communicate its position on reopening to legislators and the public.

Friday the union hosted a press conference that included parents who live in areas in the state with the highest infection rates, expressing concern about reopening schools.

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 2:56pm

Link copied.More counties move out of purple tier as new Covid-19 cases decrease

More counties recently have been moved out of the most restrictive level on the state’s reopening tier system as numbers of new Covid-19 cases continue to decrease throughout the state.

However, 52 of the state’s 58 counties — representing about 99.8% of the population — remained in the purple or “widespread” tier as of Tuesday.

Six counties recently have been moved out of the purple tier. Plumas, Del Norte and Mariposa counties are now in the red or “substantial” tier as of Tuesday. Sierra, Alpine and Trinity counties are now in the orange or “moderate” tier.

Under the state’s guidelines, schools can offer in-person instruction after remaining out of the purple tier for 14 days. Schools in counties in the purple tier may offer in-person instruction to kindergarten and elementary students as long as their “average adjusted case rate” is below 25 cases per 100,000 population per day in that county, and they file a Covid Safety Plan.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, February 16, 2021, 12:49pm

Link copied.LA County elementary schools can fully reopen

Elementary school campuses in Los Angeles on Tuesday were cleared to fully reopen for in-person instruction as the rate of positive Covid-19 tests drop, according to county public health officials. Before a school can reopen, however, a district must provide a safety plan that includes the school’s approach to preventing and containing Covid-19 spread on campus, in line with state guidelines.

Schools are eligible to reopen if a county reaches an adjusted case rate of 25 per 100,000. It’s a threshold set by the state and that Los Angeles County reached on Monday, once the county’s daily rate lowered to 20 cases per 100,000, according to a spokesperson for a county board member.

It is the first time in nearly a year that all elementary school students in the county are eligible to return to their campuses. LA Unified campuses reopened for small groups during the fall semester but were shuttered during the winter as coronavirus cases surged.

The ability to reopen does not indicate students will immediately return to their campuses. The news comes amid ongoing contract negotiations between districts and teachers unions. LA Unified, which has indicated schools will not reopen until teachers are vaccinated, opens its first school-based vaccination site this week.

According to the district, the Moderna vaccine will be available at Roybal Learning Center in East Los Angeles for school staff age 65 and older and employees who currently work at Covid-19 testing and vaccination sites.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Friday, February 12, 2021, 10:59am

Link copied.New map shows status of school reopenings across California

As part of California’s Safe Schools for All Plan, Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced that an interactive map showing the reopening status of schools across the state is now live.

“As Covid-19 conditions continue to improve and vaccinations ramp up throughout the state, this map will provide local communities with accessible, up-to-date information on how districts in their communities and beyond are adapting to the pandemic, including safety planning and implementation,” Newsom said. “This map is one of many resources we have made available that will help school staff and families make informed decisions as we safely reopen our schools.”

The map shows data from public, charter and private schools indicating whether campuses are reopened, as well as details about their Covid-19 safety planning.

The map comes about a month after the state launched the Safe Schools for All Hub, which houses information about how schools can safely return to in-person instruction. California schools could also receive nearly $90 billion, including $3.8 billion above the Proposition 98 funding minimum, through the current state budget proposal for 2021-22.

Sydney Johnson

Friday, February 12, 2021, 10:52am

Link copied.Vaccination centers open on 8 CSU campuses

California State University has opened vaccination centers at eight of its campuses and is expected to open more soon, according to university officials.

The centers at Sacramento State, Cal Poly Pomona, San Francisco State, CSU San Marcos, Stanislaus State and CSU Northridge are open to the public. Cal State Long Beach, the first to open a vaccination site, and San Diego State have vaccination sites that serve only staff and students at the university.

“The CSU encourages all who are eligible and able to participate in the important Covid vaccine programs as they become available,” said Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “By each of us doing our part, we will reach the herd immunity that “will be foundational to our collective return to a new normal.”

Most of the campus vaccination sites are operated by county health departments, with the help of school staff, while others, like Sacramento State, have been authorized by the state to be vaccine providers and are operating the centers themselves.

The next CSU vaccination site expected to open will be at Cal State Los Angeles. It will be the site of a large-scale community vaccination center operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in order to reach underrepresented communities. It will open by Feb. 16, according to campus officials.

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 2:29pm

Link copied.East Bay state senator introduces bill for free meals for all students

East Bay senator Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, introduced a bill Wednesday in the California legislature that would allow every public school student to access free meals at their school, regardless of income eligibility.

Since the pandemic, California school districts have been offering free grab and go meals for all students, thanks to the federal Pandemic Child Prevention Act which reimburses districts for the meals. Before the pandemic, districts would only be reimbursed for free meals served to low-income students.

SB 364, dubbed “School Meals for All,” would allow districts to continue serving free meals to all students even after the pandemic. It would also establish an Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, program to provide students access to food during breaks and when schools are closed due to disasters.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 11:32am

Link copied.LA Unified board approves additional staff and resources for Black students

The Los Angeles Unified board unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday that will direct over $30 million to 16 schools  that serve high numbers of Black students.

The adopted resolution, sponsored by board member Dr. George J. McKenna III, will fund additional teachers, counselors, nurses and additional resources for the schools in the Humanizing Education for Equitable Transformation (H.E.E.T.) network.

“This is not an experiment. This is supposed to be an investment that expands itself into other areas of our district,” said McKenna, as he presented the resolution to the board. Next month, Supt. Austin Beutner will present his recommendations on implementation.

The H.E.E.T. network was created to challenge and close achievement gaps among Black students in the district’s westside schools.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 10:44am

Link copied.Elite public high school in San Francisco now open to all

San Francisco Unified has ended merit-based admissions at its top-performing high school, Lowell High School, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The school is one of the top-performing public high schools in the country. For more than a century, the district has admitted students to the school based on grades and test scores. Now, the school will use a lottery system, like the rest of the district.

Currently, less than 2% of students at Lowell are Black, compared to 8% districtwide, and less than 12% are Latino, compared with 32% districtwide.

The decision has divided parents and students, with some saying it is beneficial to have a school that is considered elite.

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, February 10, 2021, 10:43am

Link copied.188 students and staff quarantined in Escondido in the last 10 days

Schools in Escondido, in San Diego County, have placed 158 students and 30 staff on quarantine since Feb. 1, because of possible contact with positive cases on campus.

The quarantines show how even after schools reopen, students will continue to have to do distance learning when there is a possible exposure.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, 37 employees and students tested positive for Covid-19 this month, and 18 of them were on campus while they were infectious.

District officials said there is no evidence of spread at the schools and that one way to stop spread is to require students and employees who share a classroom with a Covid-19 positive person to quarantine for 10 days. Students spend those days in distance learning.

The district has 8,700 students, from transitional kindergarten through eighth grade, studying on campus in a hybrid model.

In November and December, the district also sent hundreds of staff and students home to quarantine after possible exposure.

Zaidee Stavely

Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 4:13pm

Link copied.California PTA offers parents’ recommendations for reopening schools safely

The California State PTA has weighed in Tuesday on school reopenings with a statement of 10 principles for Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature to consider as they negotiate terms to bring students back for in-person instruction.

“It has been almost 330 days since California closed its school campuses and our children are falling behind academically and their mental health is suffering,” said state PTA President Celia Jaffe in asking for the reopening of schools as soon as it is safe to do so.

Most of the recommendations broadly reinforce points made by the California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators, and the California Teachers Association: prioritize teachers for Covid vaccinations; don’t require school districts to use their general funds to pay for safety and health measures, like testing; and target additional funding for reopening to schools with the most disadvantaged students, who will need social emotional support and help with transportation costs. (Newsom agrees and proposes an equity-based funding formula in his proposal for $6.6 billion for reopening schools and providing extended learning opportunities.)

But the document also reflects the perspective of parents on other points:

  • To support the mental health of students, middle schools should not start before 8 a.m. and high schools before 8:30 a.m.
  • School districts must provide parents with opportunities to give their view of school reopening plans and reach out to hear from parents representing a community’s diversity.
  • Districts also should offer after-school programs, summer school and child care programs coordinated with the school day.
  • Parents should be given the choice of returning to school for in-person instruction or remaining in distance learning.

“California’s students are counting on the Legislature and the governor to come up with a realistic school reopening plan that meets the needs of all our school communities,” Jaffe wrote.

John Fensterwald