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California education news: What’s the latest?

Monday, December 14, 2020, 10:51 am

Link copied.Latest draft of ethnic studies model curriculum posted for review, comments

The State Board of Education is receiving public comments through Jan. 21 on the final draft of the proposed high school ethnic studies model curriculum that will go to the board for adoption at its March 17-18 meeting.

This is the third draft of the curriculum, which the Legislature set in motion in 2016. Modeled on a college ethnic studies course, it focuses primarily on the histories, struggles and achievements of four groups that traditionally are studied: African-Americans, Hispanics and Chicanos, Asian Americans and Native Americans.

The Instructional Quality Commission, which advises the state board on curriculum issues, made the latest revisions at a two-day meeting in November. In response to continuing criticisms by ethnic and religious groups that their experiences, too, should be included, the commission added references to and lessons about Sikh, Jewish, Arab Americans and other Asian American groups. It also toned down the language in sections containing sharp critiques of white oppression and American capitalism.

In a separate but related action, in September, Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have made ethnic studies a mandatory high school graduation course. Newsom referred to dissatisfaction with the wording of the proposed curriculum in his veto message. The chief author of that bill, Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, announced last week he would reintroduce the bill this year.

Members of the public can read the latest draft and instructions for submitting comments by going here.

John Fensterwald

Friday, December 11, 2020, 3:21 pm

Link copied.Suzanne Kitchens becomes new president of school boards association

Pleasant Valley School District board member Suzanne Kitchens is the new president of the California School Boards Association. Delegates from the association elected her to the post at its annual convention this month.

A native Californian and Ventura County resident, she served for more than 20 years as a volunteer in the Pleasant Valley district, where her three daughters graduated, before winning election to the school board in 2000; she has served as board president.

Suzanne Kitchens

An accountant who owns a tax business, she has also chaired CSBA’s Finance and Audit Committees. She has a bachelor’s degree in Business and a master’s degree in Business Administration from CSU-Dominguez Hills.

“In this year of the pandemic, CSBA leaders have worked hard to help every board member and give them quality resources. In 2021, we will continue to advocate for public education and to provide tools and services for board members at every level of continuous learning,” Kitchens said.

Joining Kitchens on CSBA’s 2021 Executive Committee are President-elect Susan Heredia of Natomas Unified and Vice President Susan Markarian of the Pacific Elementary School District. Xilonin Cruz-Gonzalez of Azusa Unified will serve as immediate past president.

John Fensterwald

Friday, December 11, 2020, 3:18 pm

Link copied.CSBA honors Milpitas Unified board member Chris Norwood

Milpitas Unified school board Vice President Chris Norwood is the California School Boards Association’s Board Member of the Year. CSBA announced its Golden Gavel Award, honoring school board members who exemplify best practices in effective governance and boardsmanship, at the end of its virtual convention last week.

Norwood, a Milpitas High School graduate, was first elected to the Milpitas board in 2014. He has had a hand in molding state math placement and education finance legislation through his work with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, CSBA said.

He also has co-hosted discussions on violence prevention, housing for teachers and vulnerable families, and other critical topics in the district. Building collaboration through dialogue will be essential for districts and families facing food and housing insecurity, unemployment and mental health challenges during the pandemic, CSBA said.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, December 10, 2020, 5:28 pm

Link copied.Orange County teachers union leaders ask that schools return to distance learning

Nineteen presidents of Orange County teachers union chapters sent a joint letter Thursday to local school district superintendents and school boards asking them to consider closing campuses and returning students to distance learning until Covid-19 infection rates go down.

Orange County has 28 school districts, with many teaching classes with in-person instruction.

“Currently, the school districts in our county follow different policies and rely on voluntary virus reporting,” said the letter. “Without consistently applied testing and tracing, our schools risk spreading infection throughout the county. No district is completely independent of the others; we have members and families working, living and learning in different cities. Regardless of where we work or live or learn, no one in our county is dispensable.”

The union leaders recommend that county schools remain in distance learning until the county moves out of the state’s purple tier, which is the most restrictive on the state’s monitoring list, based on rates of infection.

The union leaders cited the county’s high Covid-19 positivity and hospitalization rates.

“By shifting instruction to distance learning we can help flatten the curve before the rate of infection spikes beyond the capacity of hospitals and healthcare providers,” the letter read.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, December 10, 2020, 1:33 pm

Link copied.Schools need to work with health, justice other agencies to stop ‘toxic stress’ among children

California’s education, health, justice, social service and other agencies need to join forces to address pervasive “toxic stress” among young people that’s been made worse by the pandemic, according to a report released this week by California Surgeon General Nadine Burke Harris.

Roadmap for Resilience: The California Surgeon General’s Report on Adverse Childhood Experiences, Toxic Stress, and Health” outlines the scope of the problem and provides guidance for how schools and other institutions can help students and their families cope with stress and trauma. Training for all staff, referrals to health professionals, investments in a safe and welcoming school climate, and promotion of healthy habits are among the recommendations for schools. Burke Harris has already encouraged schools to screen children for adverse childhood experiences, which can be linked to poor academic performance and physical and mental health challenges. Those experiences can include abuse, neglect, witnessing violence or living with a parent who’s mentally ill or an addict.

Carolyn Jones

Thursday, December 10, 2020, 11:40 am

Link copied.CSU plans to reopen all 23 campuses for fall 2021 term

California State University announced Wednesday that it plans to return to offering primarily in-person classes starting in the fall of 2021.

“It’s critical that we provide as much advance notice as possible to students and their families, as we have done previously in announcing our moves toward primarily virtual instruction,” CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White said. “While we are currently going through a very difficult surge in the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel with the promising progress on vaccines.”

White retires at the end of this year and will be replaced by Fresno State President Joseph Castro in January.

“This decision comes at a good time as high school and transfer students have until December 15 to complete their applications for fall admission,” Castro said. “I urge eligible students across the Golden State to apply for admission to one or more CSU campuses.”

Ashley A. Smith

Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 11:16 pm

Link copied.New survey points to income inequality and anxiety among Californians

A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California has revealed considerable pessimism toward the future and immediate economic distress particularly among lower-income Californians interviewed in the grip of the pandemic. PPIC released “Californians and Their Economic Wellbeing,” a survey of 2,325 adult residents, including 1,000 lower-income adults, on Wednesday.

Among the findings:

  • 63% think that children in California today will be worse off financially than their parents when they grow up, including 78% of whites and 47% of Latinos; 35% say children will be better off.
  • 69% say the gap between rich and poor in their part of the state is getting wider, led by 78% in the Bay Area; 6% statewide say the gap is narrowing.
  • 43% living in households earning less than $40,000 had with reduced work hours or pay and 42% cut back on food to save compared with 12% in households earning $80,000 or more.
  • 78% say it is important for workers to organize, a view shared by majorities across parties, regions, and income and racial/ethnic groups.
  • While 83% of Californians say racism is a problem in the US, 63% of Blacks say that racial and ethnic discrimination contributes “a great deal” to inequality, compared with 29% of whites.
John Fensterwald

Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 4:26 pm

Link copied.Cal State LA awarded grant for simulation lab to prepare teachers

Cal State LA has been awarded a $586,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to train future teachers in math and science instruction using a simulation lab.

The three-year grant will be used to establish the Simulations for Minority Interactive Learning Environments: A Design and Development Project at Cal State LA. The simulation lab will help prepare elementary teachers working in schools in high-poverty urban areas to teach math and science.

“Just as pilots spend long hours using virtual simulators before flying a plane carrying real passengers, it is now possible to provide students studying to be teachers opportunities to virtually practice teaching strategies to enhance learning before serving students in real classrooms,” said Costello Brown, a consultant on the project and an emeritus chemistry professor at Cal State LA.

Diana Lambert

Wednesday, December 9, 2020, 12:15 pm

Link copied.54 of 58 counties now in most restrictive reopening tier

On the heels of a new regional stay-at-home order due to what state public health officials call a “rapid” surge in Covid-19 hospitalizations, three more counties have been moved to the most restrictive level on the state’s reopening tier system, bringing the total number of “purple” counties to 54 out of 58.

Amador, Marin and Mono counties are the latest to drop down to the purple tier. Mariposa, Inyo and Alpine remain in the red or “substantial” tier and Sierra remains in the orange or “moderate” tier.

The 54 counties now in in the purple tier include 981 public school districts and 1,300 charter schools, enrolling a total of 6,065,117 students — 99.87% of the state’s total enrollment.

Though schools in purple counties can’t begin offering in-person instruction, they can continue to do so if they already were offering in-person instruction. However, under the state’s guidance they must increase Covid-19 testing for staff.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, December 7, 2020, 11:06 am

Link copied.Michael Kirst takes new position at institute established by Linda Darling-Hammond

Michael Kirst is picking up where he left off nearly two years ago when he retired as president of the State Board of Education, with a new venue to contemplate education policy in California.

Kirst announced last week that he is now Senior Fellow in Residence at the Learning Policy Institute in Palo Alto. His initial task, he wrote in an email, will be an analysis and revision of the state’s system of education reform that combines many components, including classroom instruction, community schools and district operations such as human resources and budgeting. This will include “new and more comprehensive strategies” and “much tighter linkages between K-12 and postsecondary education,” he said.

Kirst, an adviser for former Gov. Jerry Brown for five decades, was a co-author of what came to be the Local Control Funding Formula, the new system for allocating state funding for school districts. During his eight years as state board president, he oversaw the integration of new academic standards and assessments and a new, still-evolving system of school accountability. His successor as board president, Linda Darling-Hammond, is president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute and a longtime collaborator and colleague at Stanford University, where both are professors emeriti.

Kirst said his the deadline for presenting his initial report is June 2021.

John Fensterwald

Monday, December 7, 2020, 9:27 am

Link copied.Los Angeles Unified schools will shut down Thursday amid Covid-19 surge

All in-person tutoring and special services at Los Angeles Unified public schools will be shut down effective Thursday as Covid-19 cases in the city continue rising. The order, announced Monday by Supt. Austin Beutner, affects students in kindergarten through 12th grades attending in-person tutoring, childcare services, as well as outdoor conditioning for students athletes. Staff currently working in schools will work from home if their job allows.

“This is greatly disappointing to all who have been working so hard to build a proper foundation for students’ return to campus,” Beutner said on Monday. “Clean schools, proper health protocols and COVID testing for all at schools make a difference, but they don’t provide immunity to the virus. We can’t create a bubble for the school community.”

The emergency campus shutdown comes one day after Los Angeles for the first time recorded 10,500 daily Covid-19 cases and on the first day of California’s regional stricter stay-at-home orders. It also comes as the district was beginning to slowly reopen campuses for students with high needs for in-person tutoring, which began early October.

The order will remain in place until the beginning of the next semester. All food relief efforts and Covid-19 testing, however, will continue.

In his prepared remarks, the Beutner also called for federal relief for schools that includes four elements: safe and clean school environments, school-based Covid-19 testing, mental health support for students and summer school for all students.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Friday, December 4, 2020, 5:21 pm

Link copied.DACA, the federal program for undocumented immigrants, to begin accepting new applicants

Thousands of undocumented immigrants are now eligible to apply for a federal program that provides protection from deportation and a work permit if they meet specific requirements.

A federal judge on Friday ordered the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to fully restore an Obama-era executive order known as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and publish a public notice by Monday specifying first-time applications will be accepted.

Court battles ensued after the Trump administration attempted to end DACA in September 2017, and first-time applications have not been accepted since then. And although the attempt to end the program was described as “arbitrary and capricious” by the U.S. Supreme Court in June and a Maryland federal judge in July ruled that DACA be restored, the Trump administration continued denying new applications. They also began requiring this year that those already in the program renew their application every year, rather than the previously-established two years.

In California, 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 up to 70,000 in the state’s 115 community colleges. About half of those students are estimated to have DACA certification.

Advocates of the program rejoiced on Friday, some using the hashtag HomeIsHere on Twitter to communicate their support.

Betty Márquez Rosales

Thursday, December 3, 2020, 4:15 pm

Link copied.Los Angeles County needs a more diverse teacher workforce, report says

School districts in Los Angeles County need to recruit and retain more teachers of color, particularly Latinx and Black educators, according to a report from the Greater LA Education Foundation released today.

The foundation is a philanthropic arm of the Los Angeles County Office of Education.

The report found that 57% of teachers and 61% of administrators in Los Angeles County are Latinx, Black, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Filipino or multiracial, compared to 85% of its students.

The largest gap exists between Latinx students, who make up 66% of the student population, and Latinx teachers, who are 33% of the teacher workforce.

Research shows a diverse teacher workforce can help close gaps in academic performance for students of color.

There are several recommendations in the report for how government and education officials can incentivize teaching programs, including offering loan forgiveness, reduced credentialing fees, increasing starting salaries in lower-performing schools and offering housing and teaching stipends.

The report also recommends the expansion of pathways to teaching careers, including district-operated programs like residencies, where student teachers work alongside veteran teachers.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, December 3, 2020, 1:17 pm

Link copied.California bill would revamp state broadband funding as distance learning continues

A bill introduced today by state Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, could update the state’s existing broadband funding system.

The bill, which has been dubbed the Broadband for All Act, would update requirements for communities to apply for grants, finance their own internet infrastructure and increase deployment speeds to at least 100mbps.

The bill would also remove a sunset on the existing broadband law, AB 1665, which allows the California Public Utilities Commission to collect $330 million through 2022 to fund broadband through the California Advanced Services Fund. It would also create a Broadband Bond Financing Securitization Account to fund ongoing costs for broadband infrastructure.

The announcement comes as schools across California continue with distance learning, even though hundreds of thousands of students are expected to be without a stable internet connection, according to a recent report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“High-speed broadband is a right for all Californians, just as we all have a right to telephone service and electricity,” said David Griffith, District 5 supervisor for the Alpine County Board of Supervisors. “We who live in areas that have no broadband or inadequate broadband are Californians, too.”

During the 2020 legislative session, two bills — SB 1130 and AB 570 — similarly aimed to reform broadband funding and increase internet access but failed to pass. Both bills were introduced before the pandemic caused schools and businesses to switch to online settings to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

“From the standpoints of kids families and schools in California, broadband for all is a complete no-brainer,” said Jim Steyer, president of the children’s media nonprofit Common Sense Media, which is co-sponsoring the bill. “You have to have broadband access to be a citizen in California or any part of the world today, and we need to provide this for everyone in California, particularly our kids who are going to school over the internet.”

Sydney Johnson

Tuesday, December 1, 2020, 4:22 pm

Link copied.California State University system extends application deadline

The California State University system has extended its fall 2021 priority application deadline to apply to Dec. 15, to “better serve high school and community college students facing university admission challenges caused by COVID-19,” the system said in a statement.

The application deadline was initially set for 11:59 p.m. Dec. 4.

The CSU is following the University of California which extended its application deadline due to technical difficulties from Nov. 30 to Dec. 4.

CSU is encouraging students who apply to visit the university’s financial aid website. Students should complete and submit their financial aid application and follow-up with their campus’ financial aid office.

Ashley A. Smith


Monday, November 30, 2020, 5:10 pm

Link copied.California parents sue state alleging inequity in distance learning

A group of seven families from Oakland and Los Angeles, as well as the Oakland REACH parents group filed a lawsuit Monday against the State of California alleging the state hasn’t done enough to prevent racial and socio-economic inequality in distance learning.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Alameda County Superior Court, says the state failed its “constitutional obligation” to provide students an equal education by not ensuring equal access to devices, technology and support necessary for remote learning. The lawsuit also alleges the state has failed to provide teachers the support needed to help students learn under the current circumstances.

The impact, the lawsuit said, has disproportionately affected Black and Latinx students, as well as students from low-income backgrounds.

“The change in the delivery of education left many already-underserved students functionally unable to attend school,” the plaintiffs said in the lawsuit. “The State continues to refuse to step up and meet its constitutional obligation to ensure basic educational equality or indeed any education at all.”

Nine Los Angeles families filed a similar lawsuit against Los Angeles Unified in September, alleging the district’s distance learning program does not meet state educational standards and disproportionately harms Black and Latinx students, the Associated Press reported.

The Alameda County lawsuit calls for a judgment barring the state from “further depriving Plaintiffs of their constitutional rights,” as well as for low-income, Black and Latinx families to be included in the state and local planning for in-person instruction when conditions allow.

The families are being represented by Public Council — a nonprofit civil rights law firm — and international law firm Morrison and Foerster.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, November 30, 2020, 2:03 pm

Link copied.Six more counties at restrictive ‘purple’ tier, making 51 of California’s 58 counties

As Covid-19 cases continue to surge in California, six more counties have moved to the most restrictive level on the state’s reopening tier system, bringing the total number of “purple” counties to 51 out of 58.

San Francisco, Lake, Calaveras, Modoc, Plumas and San Mateo counties were the latest to drop to the “purple” tier Monday. The 51 counties include 957 public school districts and 1,295 charters serving a total of 6,025,850 students — 99.24 % of the state’s total K-12 enrollment.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that six more counties had moved into the purple or “widespread” tier on the state’s Covid-19 reopening tier system. This brings the total number of purple counties from 45 to 51 out of 58.

Though schools in purple counties can’t begin offering in-person instruction, they can continue to do so if they already were offering in-person instruction. However, under the state’s guidance they must increase Covid-19 testing for staff.

The state recommends that all schools that are open for in-person instruction test staff once every two months, or 25% of staff every two weeks. A school in a county that moves back into the purple tier should exceed this.

All schools are required to close when at least 5% of staff and students test positive for Covid-19 within a 14-day period. School districts must close if one-quarter of schools in the districts are closed due to Covid-19 cases. Schools can usually reopen within 14 days after campuses have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, public health contact tracing is completed and the county public health department has given its approval.

Only seven counties weren’t in purple tier as of Monday: Inyo, Mono, Mariposa, Alpine, Amador, and Marin counties were in the red or “substantial” tier and Sierra county was in the orange or “moderate” tier. No counties were in the yellow, “minimal” tier.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, November 30, 2020, 12:41 pm

Link copied.University of California extends application deadline

The University of California has extended its application deadline to apply to Friday, citing technical difficulties that applicants experienced.

The application deadline was initially set for Monday. Now, the deadline is Friday at 11:59 p.m.

“Due to the technical difficulties that many were experiencing on Nov. 29, the deadline for the UC application has been extended to 11:59 pm PST, Friday, Dec. 4,” the system said in a statement.

Even with the extension, the system encouraged students to submit their applications as soon as possible.

“We do encourage applications to be submitted as soon as possible! If you can, submit early and don’t wait until the last day to apply,” the system said in a tweet.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, November 24, 2020, 1:03 pm

Link copied.Four more counties join ‘purple’ tier, bringing total to 45

While California grapples with a weeks-long surge in Covid-19 cases, four more counties have moved to the most restrictive level on the state’s reopening tier system, bringing the total number of “purple” counties to 45 out of 58.

Colusa, Del Norte, Humboldt and Lassen counties moved down to the purple or “widespread” tier Tuesday, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced at a news conference. Tuesday’s announcement comes a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom pulled an “emergency brake” on indoor activity in the state, pushing the number of “purple” counties from 13 to 41.

The 45 “purple” counties include 913 public school districts, 1,256 charters, and 5,852,251 students — about 96% of the state’s total K-12 enrollment. The four counties that dropped to purple this week have a combined enrollment of 30,603 students.

Though schools in purple counties can’t begin offering in-person instruction, they can continue to do so if they already were offering in-person instruction. However, under the state’s guidance they must increase Covid-19 testing for staff.

The state recommends that all schools that are open for in-person instruction test staff once every two months, or 25% of staff every two weeks. A school in a county that moves back into the purple tier should exceed this.

All schools are required to close when at least 5% of staff and students test positive for Covid-19 within a 14-day period. School districts must close if one-quarter of schools in the districts are closed due to Covid-19 cases. Schools can usually reopen within 14 days after campuses have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, public health contact tracing is completed and the county public health department has given its approval.

Ghaly, on Tuesday, also announced that Calaveras county moved from the orange, or “moderate” tier down to red, or “substantial.” That brings the total number of red counties to eight, down from 11 a week ago.

California Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Tuesday that four more counties had moved to the purple or “widespread” tier.

Alpine and Mariposa counties — the only two in the yellow or “minimal” tier last week — have moved to orange, or “moderate.” That brings the number of “orange” counties to five — up from four last week and down from 17 two weeks ago — and the number of yellow counties to zero.

Ali Tadayon

Friday, November 20, 2020, 4:31 pm

Link copied.California school districts undervalue and must improve civic learning, new report concludes

Even as students have become more politically active, California school districts have paid scant attention to civics education, a new report by social science researchers at UC Riverside and UCLA found.

Based on a representative sampling of districts, researchers concluded that 5 million of 6 million students in the state attend schools that “do not articulate any sort of substantial focus on civics education,” Erica Hodgin, co-author of the report, Reclaiming the Democratic Purpose of California’s Public Schools, said during this week’s EdSource podcast. For example, civic and democratic commitments are absent from most districts’ Local Control and Accountability Plans, in which districts set academic priorities and funding.

The presidential election reaffirmed the need to educate and inspire students about how to make democracy work, Hodgin said. This includes not only teaching the basics of voting and representative government, but also building skills to determine accuracy in the media, how to engage in civic discussions and how to take informed action, Hodgin said.

The report calls for more investment in civic education and the establishment of a state task force to create a master plan in civic learning. It also credits the the State Board of Education’s recent approval of the State Seal of Civic Engagement in California, which will be awarded to high school graduates who develop and demonstrate an understanding of and participation in civic life. The authors said they hope students will pursue the recognition and districts will improve the quality of their programs so that more students can qualify for it.

John Fensterwald

Friday, November 20, 2020, 10:37 am

Link copied.Some California counties are paying more than $500,000 per youth to lock up young people

It costs more than $500,000 per youth per year to run California’s juvenile halls in counties such as Alameda, according to a recent report from the Youth Law Center and the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center.

Juvenile hall is a still jail-like experience for many young people despite many efforts to reform the state’s system. Youth crime has dropped significantly over the last few decades in California and across the U.S., the San Francisco Chronicle reports. While some counties are like San Francisco, which closed its juvenile hall and replaced it with community-based programs, other programs can last up to a year in Fresno County and 730 days Tulare County, both in California’s Central Valley.

“What we found is that juvenile hall commitment programs suffer from many of the very things that caused Gov. Newsom to want to shutter the state facility system,” Sue Burrell of the Pacific Juvenile Defender Center told the Chronicle. “The governor’s goal of transforming youth justice as we know it cannot be fulfilled by locking youth in jail-like settings where they cannot exercise judgment, develop skills or engage in healthy peer activities, and where they lack meaningful access to their families and the community.”

Sydney Johnson

Thursday, November 19, 2020, 11:25 am

Link copied.LA County officials grant 73 more TK-2 school waivers

LA County officials approved 73 more TK-2 school waivers this week, bringing the total to 147 elementary schools.

This waiver program allows in-person instruction for students in transitional kindergarten to second grade despite the fact that the county remains in the most restrictive purple tier amid an ongoing national surge in Covid-19 cases. 

Officials have increased the number of waivers granted, from 30 to up to 50 a week, in a rolling application process that began last month. Additional schools may be approved in any given week if there weren’t 50 approvals in earlier weeks. Priority is intended to be given to lower-income school districts and spread evenly across five supervisorial districts but many of the county’s neediest schools have not applied for the program for a range of reasons from safety to equity. 

The highest number of applications in a recent batch, for example, were from District 3, a region that includes neighborhoods with high household income, such as Beverly Hills and private schools have largely dominated the process.

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 5:38 pm

Link copied.Child care providers demand help amid deepening crisis triggered by pandemic

More than 5,700 California family child care providers have been forced to close their doors in 2020, according to Child Care Providers United, a partnership of United Domestic Workers (UDW) and SEIU Locals 99 and 521, which are located in Los Angeles, San Jose and San Diego. After months of calling for action, the union today announced the filing of an unfair labor practice charge against the state of California, arguing that the state has refused to work collaboratively with providers.

“We are filing an unfair practice charge today to enforce that process so that we can urgently reach an agreement with the state about how to keep child care open,” said Max Arias, chairman of CCPU and executive director of SEIU Local 99. “The state is shutting the door in our face, and we, in turn, are having to shut the doors on families around California.”

The union represents about 40,000 family child care providers, most of whom have received subsidies for at least one child in the last year. Providers receive payments from the state when they care for children from low-income families who have been approved for subsidies.

Child care providers are asking the state to increase reimbursement rates for providers who tend to children in distance learning, provide financial support to providers who have to close their doors in the wake of Covid-19 exposure and expedite the reimbursement of family fees, for which the Legislature allocated funding on Oct. 21. 

“To put it plainly, child care providers were barely getting by before the pandemic. Now, we’re not getting by at all,” said Charlotte Neal, who has been a family child care provider for 19 years in Sacramento. “As this pandemic rages on and our challenges as providers mount, the state is not working with us to limit the impacts on providers and keep us in business or to ensure frontline workers have access to the care they need. We need action from the state. And we need it now.”

Karen D'Souza

Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 11:27 am

Link copied.Few LA County public schools apply for waivers to reopen

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health has released new data that shows that private schools continue to dominate the reopening waiver application pool. The waiver program, which allows in-person instruction for students in transitional kindergarten to second grade, was designed to prioritize the county’s neediest schools — those with high rates of students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals. According to program rules, waiver approvals would be distributed equally across the county’s five supervisorial districts.

But the county’s data shows that the neediest schools are not applying. As outlined by EdSource this month, the highest number of applications in the last batch were from District 3, a region that includes neighborhoods with high household income, such as Beverly Hills. Nearly 84% of all private school applicants are in District 3. And at 33 approved waivers, they make up 45% of the schools that have been allowed to reopen under this process. 

A total of 74 schools have been approved since the program became available on October 5. All of those schools were approved within the first three weeks of the program. No additional schools in November have been approved to open.

-Betty Márquez Rosales

Betty Márquez Rosales

Tuesday, November 17, 2020, 11:16 am

Link copied.Governing board of California community colleges elects new president, vice president

The governing board for California’s community college system has a new president and vice president for the 2021 calendar year.

The board on Monday elected Pamela Haynes to serve as president and Amy Costa as vice president.

Haynes, who ran unopposed for president, will replace outgoing board president Tom Epstein. She previously served as vice president under Epstein. Haynes is also an elected trustee for the Sacramento-based Los Rios Community College District.

Costa, former chief deputy director for budget at the California Department of Finance, was elected vice president over Hildegarde Aguinaldo, who is assistant general counsel for the dialysis company DaVita.

Of the 15 board members present for Monday’s meeting, Costa received eight votes and Aguinaldo received six. Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalaki, an ex-officio voting member of the board, abstained from the vote.

Michael Burke

Monday, November 16, 2020, 3:09 pm

Link copied.Crisis response interferes with districts’ ability to meet learning needs: report

An update of a study of how 100 U.S. school districts are coping with the pandemic, including nine large districts in California, concluded that “school districts are too often consumed by crisis response and the logistical challenges of reopening to develop new strategies for teaching and learning.”

“Districts are going it alone — procuring equipment and setting up plans to keep children safe in buildings, only to have those plans derailed by rising case counts in their communities,” it said.

In the latest report, by the Center for the Reinvention of Public Education, based at the University of Washington-Bothell, 80 out of 100 districts say they plan to measure student learning, and nearly two-thirds specify strategies like tutoring or small-group instruction for students who fall behind. But 59 districts didn’t specify what assessment system they’ll use or what data they will make available to parents and the public, and only 16 said they would use a universal or standardized diagnostic, which can be useful to determine learning needs across schools.

The authors wrote that especially in big districts, large numbers of students remain disengaged from learning or going without crucial support services. Relying on returning to in-person instruction won’t solve this problem, they said. “At every stage, school districts’ response to the pandemic has been thrown off course by the mistaken assumption that things will soon return to normal,” they concluded.

California districts included in the study include Oakland, Los Angeles, Long Beach, San Diego, Fresno, Oakland, Santa Ana, Sacramento City and Stockton unified districts. The full report and database can be found here.

John Fensterwald

Monday, November 16, 2020, 2:09 pm

Link copied.Covid surge pushes number of ‘purple’ counties from 13 to 41 in one week

In response to a surge in Covid-19 cases in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom pulled an “emergency brake” on indoor activity in the state, pushing the number of counties in the purple or “widespread” reopening tier to 41 of 58.

Last week, 13 counties were in the purple tier, which is the most restrictive status. It means that schools that are not yet open for in-person instruction cannot do so unless they have a waiver from the county public health office. Now, 94% of California residents live in counties in the purple tier.

The 41 counties in the purple tier include 863 districts, 1,237 charters and 5,821,648 students, which is 95.88% of the state’s total student body.

The counties that downgraded to purple between Nov. 10 and Nov. 16 include: Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Kern, Kings, Mendocino, Merced, Napa, Nevada, Orange, Placer, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Siskiyou, Solano, Sutter, Trinity, Tuolumne, Ventura, Yolo and Yuba.

The 13 counties previously rated purple include: Imperial, Los Angeles, Madera, Monterey, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama and Tulare

Though schools in purple counties can’t begin offering in-person instruction, they can continue to do so if they already were offering in-person instruction. However, under the state’s guidance they must increase Covid-19 testing for staff.

The state recommends that all schools that are open for in-person instruction test staff once every two months, or 25% of staff every two weeks. A school in a county that moves back into the purple tier should exceed this.

All schools are required to close when at least 5% of staff and students test positive for Covid-19 within a 14-day period. School districts must close if one-quarter of schools in the districts are closed due to Covid-19 cases. Schools can usually reopen within 14 days after campuses have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, public health contact tracing is completed and the county public health department has given its approval.

Several other counties moved to more restrictive tiers Monday. Colusa, Del Norte, Marin, Modoc, Plumas Humboldt, Mono, San Francisco and San Mateo moved to the red, or “substantial” tier. Calaveras and Sierra counties moved to the orange or “moderate” tier.

Ali Tadayon

Friday, November 13, 2020, 5:19 pm

Link copied.Fremont Unified votes to remove police officers from school campuses

Fremont Unified is the latest California school district to part ways with police officers on school campuses. The school district, which is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, follows Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified, Alum Rock Union and East Side Union High School districts in San Jose, which all voted to sever ties with local police departments and school resource officer programs this summer following widespread protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd in May.

The decision in Fremont Unified, which has an enrollment of about 35,000 students, was made based on a recommendation from a 25-member task force created to evaluate the issue earlier this year, the Mercury News reported. About 70 people spoke in favor of removing police from campuses in a district meeting on Thursday when the vote took place, and about 30 said they wanted to keep officers on campus.

Sydney Johnson

Friday, November 13, 2020, 5:11 pm

Link copied.L.A. Unified reaches deal with administrators over reopening protocols

Los Angeles Unified has reached an agreement with the union representing administrators in the district, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, over protocols for reopening campuses for in-person learning.

The district released only a summary of the agreement. It stipulates that all students and employees would need to be tested for Covid-19 before returning to campuses and that students will be grouped in small cohorts when they return.

Under the agreement, administrators will also be paid a stipend “in recognition of the extraordinary effort involved in planning for and implementing this effort,” the district said.

Campuses across L.A. Unified will not reopen until January at the earliest. Whenever they do reopen, it will be a hybrid model, with students spending some time learning in-person and some time learning from home. Students will also have the option of learning full-time from home.

“Our plans include the highest standards for health, education and employee practices at schools. We are grateful for the tireless efforts of administrators who are leading the charge to ensure our schools are ready for students to return in a hybrid learning model,” Superintendent Austin Beutner and Juan Flecha, president of the union, said in a statement.

Michael Burke

Thursday, November 12, 2020, 12:23 pm

Link copied.CSU breaks enrollment record during pandemic

Enrollment at California State University campuses is up since the pandemic began, according to the Chancellor’s Office.

The university system had 485,549 students enroll for the fall semester. It had 481,929 students enrolled in the university in the fall of 2019. This breaks the enrollment record of 484,297 from the fall of 2017.

“The record enrollment of 485,549 students reflects the confidence that state residents have in the California State University,” said CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White in a statement. “I commend the creativity and hard work of our faculty and staff who implemented innovative ways to carry on our tradition of inclusive academic excellence, despite the current pandemic and necessary transition to virtual instruction. Their efforts enabled us to welcome our new students and to connect and engage with all students like never before.”

University enrollment fell about 4% nationwide.

The enrollment increases are due, in part, to an all-time high retention rate of 85.5% for first-year students, according to the university. Fresno State, Sacramento State and CSU Bakersfield had record high enrollments.

Diana Lambert

Tuesday, November 10, 2020, 8:31 pm

Link copied.California voters defeat Proposition 15, measure to collect higher property taxes from commercial properties

California voters have defeated Proposition 15, the measure to collect higher property tax revenue from commercial properties.

The proposition has been lagging since the Nov. 3 election. The Associated Press on Tuesday called the proposition defeated following a ballot update that showed that Prop. 15 had only 48% support and was trailing by more than a half-million votes. Official returns won’t be certified until early next month.

The proposition was the first ballot attempt to amend Proposition 13, the ever-popular 1978 constitutional amendment limiting property tax increases.

One of the most contested and expensive state issues on the ballot, Prop. 15 would have raised anywhere from $10.3 billion to $12.6 billion annually for cities, counties and schools. Of that amount, 40% — $2.6 billion to $4.6 billion — would have gone K-12 schools and community colleges.

All the revenue would have come from higher taxes on commercial properties valued over $3 million by reassessing them at market value every three years while leaving intact Prop. 13’s rules for reassessing homes and apartment buildings only when they’re sold. Prop. 13 limits property taxes to 1% of assessed value, with a maximum 2% increase in taxes annually. Changing taxation only for commercial properties is why Prop. 15 is called a split-roll tax.

Rose Ciotta

Tuesday, November 10, 2020, 5:08 pm

Link copied.San Diego Unified, UC San Diego look to partner on Covid-19 testing

San Diego Unified, the second largest school district in California, is eyeing a partnership with UC San Diego to provide Covid-19 testing to all students and staff in the district.

San Diego Unified’s school board will be asked on Tuesday to approve the contract of up to $5 million. Under the proposal, UC San Diego would provide Covid-19 tests to all students and staff every two weeks. It would cost the district $40 a test.

San Diego Unified is currently conducting some in-person instruction for students with the greatest needs but has not resumed face-to-face instruction on a wider scale. The district is hoping to bring back all elementary school students in early January as part of a hybrid reopening plan. Under that plan, middle and high school students would return beginning Jan. 25.

Michael Burke

Tuesday, November 10, 2020, 2:17 pm

Link copied.Education transition team for Biden administration announced, with Linda Darling-Hammond as “lead”

President-elect Joe Biden announced his 20-person education transition team, along with teams focused on 38 other federal agencies and functions ranging from Arts and Humanities to the U.S. Postal Service. Heading the education team is Linda Darling Hammond, president of the Learning Policy Institute, as well as president of California’s State Board of Education. Darling-Hammond played the same role a dozen years ago on the transition team of President-elect Barack Obama.

Four of the members work for the American Federation of Teachers or the National Education Association, but almost all of the others have worked at senior levels for the federal government in some capacity before, especially in the Obama administration. For more details on the K-12 members, check out this report by EdWeek’s Evie Blad. The team is heavily tilted towards members whose principal background is in K-12 arenas. One of the few from the postsecondary field is James Kvaal, president of the Oakland-based The Institute for College Access and Success. Kvaal also worked in the Obama administration, both at the U.S. Dept. of Education and at the White House for the Domestic Policy Council.

Earlier this week, there was a good deal of speculation that Darling-Hammond was a top prospect to be Secretary of Education, but she has indicated forcefully that she is not interested in the position, preferring to stay in California to work with Gov. Newsom in her role as president of the State Board of Education as well as of the Learning Policy Institute. In response, Gov. Newsom on Wednesday said that “Linda is a vital leader in my administration, and is instrumental in advancing our shared objectives to expand equity, set the course to universal pre-K and prepare all students for success in college, careers and civic engagement — especially as we manage the impacts of COVID-19.”

As to her decision not to move to D.C., Newsom said “I am thrilled that Linda will continue to architect and drive our vision for education in California, in addition to advising President-Elect Biden and his transition team as they chart a better course for our students nationwide.”

The full transition team is as follows:

Linda Darling-Hammond Learning Policy Institute
Ary Amerikaner The Education Trust
Beth Antunez American Federation of Teachers
Jim Brown United States Senate, Office of Senator Robert P. Casey, Jr. (Retired)
Ruthanne Buck Self-employed
Norma Cantu University of Texas at Austin, School of Law
Jessica Cardichon Learning Policy Institute
Keia Cole MassMutual
Lindsay Dworkin Alliance for Excellent Education
Donna Harris-Aikens National Education Association
Kristina Ishmael Open Education Global
Bob Kim John Jay College of Criminal Justice
James Kvaal The Institute for College Access & Success
Peggy McLeod UnidosUS
Paul Monteiro Howard University
Pedro Rivera Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology
Roberto Rodriguez Teach Plus, Inc
Shital Shah American Federation of Teachers
Marla Ucelli-Kashyap American Federation of Teachers
Emma Vadehra The Century Foundation

 

Louis Freedberg

Tuesday, November 10, 2020, 1:30 pm

Link copied.Three counties move back to most restrictive Covid tier

As Covid-19 cases in California continue to spike for a second week, three counties have slid back on the state’s reopening tier system to the purple or “widespread” tier, Health and Human Services officials announced Tuesday.

Sacramento, San Diego and Stanislaus counties moved from the red “substantial” tier back to the purple, meaning schools that were not yet open for in-person instruction cannot do so unless they have a waiver from the county public health office.

As of Nov. 10, 13 of California’s 58 counties were in the purple tier, serving about 3,424,399 students — 55.56 % of the state’s total student body. Those 13 counties include 399 public school districts and 787 charter schools.

Schools that were already offering in-person instruction in those counties can continue to do so, but they must increase Covid-19 testing for staff, according to the state guidance.

California Health and Human Services officials announced Tuesday that three counties have moved back on the state’s Covid-19 tier system to the purple, or most restrictive tier.

The state recommends that all schools that are open for in-person instruction test staff once every two months, or 25% of staff every two weeks. A school in a county that moves back into the purple tier should exceed this.

All schools are required to close when at least 5% of staff and students test positive for Covid-19 within a 14-day period. School districts must close if one-quarter of schools in the districts are closed due to Covid-19 cases. Schools can usually reopen within 14 days after campuses have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, public health contact tracing is completed and the county public health department has given its approval.

Several other counties moved to more restrictive tiers Tuesday; no counties advanced. Amador, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Placer and Santa Cruz counties moved from the orange, or “moderate” tier back to the red tier. Modoc, Siskiyou and Trinity counties moved from the yellow, or “minimal” tier to orange.

Ali Tadayon

Thursday, November 5, 2020, 3:17 pm

Link copied.West Contra Costa Unified superintendent to step down after this year

West Contra Costa Unified Superintendent Matthew Duffy will step down after this school year, district officials announced Thursday afternoon.

Theresa Harrington / EdSource

West Contra Costa Unified Superintendent Matthew Duffy delivers his “State of the Schools” address on Oct. 12, 2018.

Duffy has held the position since 2016. He received criticism from parents and community members after the district announced a $48 million deficit in mid-2019. Duffy scored an “intermediate” at his most recent performance review in June, meaning his contract was not automatically extended. It’s unclear, however, if his handling of the budget crisis had an impact on his score.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, the West Contra Costa Unified school board scheduled a special meeting for Friday to discuss the search for a new superintendent. Duffy would have been a potential candidate had he not stepped down.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, November 4, 2020, 2:20 pm

Link copied.Two counties move back reopening tiers, one moves up

With a spike in Covid-19 hospitalizations in California over the past two weeks, two counties have slid back on the state’s reopening tier system, and one has moved forward, Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Wednesday.

Shasta County, which was in the red — or “substantial” tier since Oct. 27, has moved back to purple or “widespread.” That means that schools cannot open for in-person instruction unless they have a waiver.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly announced Wednesday that two counties had moved down reopening tiers, and one had moved up.

Plumas County moved back from the yellow — or “minimal” tier to the orange “moderate” tier, which means schools in the county can remain open for in-person instruction following state and county guidance.

Colusa County was the only county to advance tiers this week, Ghaly said. It moved from red to orange.

Ghaly, during his announcement, touted the opening of a new Covid-19 testing lab in Valencia. By March, that lab will be able to process 150,000 tests per day, Health and Human Services officials said.

Ghaly said the additional testing capacity that the new lab provides will be “key” to schools reopening for in-person instruction.

“The additional lab capacity is going to be provided and offered to school districts from around the state, not just nearby to the lab,” Ghaly said. “At its full capacity, we know that monthly testing will be available to all teachers and school staff if those districts need it.”

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, November 3, 2020, 10:11 pm

Link copied.Early results in L.A. Unified school board races show Schmerelson, Franklin with leads

Early voting results in Los Angeles Unified on Tuesday showed newcomer Tanya Ortiz Franklin and incumbent Scott Schmerelson with leads in two pivotal school board races.

Franklin, a former teacher, is running against labor organizer Patricia Castellanos in District 7, which stretches from South L.A. to the L.A. Harbor. As of 10 p.m. Tuesday, Franklin had earned about 59% of the vote with approximately 118,000 votes counted. Castellanos and Franklin are vying to replace school board president Richard Vladovic, who is termed out.

In District 3, which covers much of the west San Fernando Valley, Schmerelson was winning 55% of the vote with nearly 200,000 votes counted. 

Schmerelson was initially elected to the school board in 2015 and is a close ally of United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing teachers in the district. His opponent, Marilyn Koziatek, is a staffer at Granada Hills Charter High School and was endorsed by the California Charter Schools Association. 

In the District 7 race, Franklin was also backed by charter advocates, while Castellanos was endorsed by the union. If either Franklin or Koziatek were to win their election, it would give charter-backed school board members a 4-3 majority on the board. Castellanos and Schmerelson both need to win for union-backed members to have a majority.

Michael Burke

Monday, November 2, 2020, 2:42 pm

Link copied.Local school bonds on ballot would widen facilities gap among poor districts

An analysis by an institute at UC Berkeley of the 57 local school construction bond proposals on the Nov. 3 ballot reveals that the long-standing patterns of inequity in public school facility funding in California “remain strong.”

The size of the proposed bonds varies tremendously, from $2 million proposed by Sunnyside Union Elementary School District in Tulare County to $7 billion on the ballot in Los Angeles Unified. These amounts also vary greatly by enrollment: from $318 per student at Dehesa Elementary School District in San Diego County to $85,950 per student at Sausalito-Marin City School District, according to researchers Jeff Vincent and José Lopez of the Center for Cities and Schools at UC Berkeley.

They found that districts with higher local property values per student and with higher median household incomes would generate more money per student than property-poor districts and those with lower household incomes. Also, districts with higher proportions of low-income students are proposing bonds that would yield less bonding per student than bonds proposed by wealthier communities.

In past years, matching money from state construction bonds would compensate for some of the disparities. But voters in March narrowly defeated a $15 billion state construction bond, Proposition 13, that would have replenished state funding for school districts that passed school bonds. As a result, until voters pass a new bond or the Legislature appropriates more money through the state budget, the state has run out of school construction aid for districts.

John Fensterwald

Saturday, October 31, 2020, 10:43 am

Link copied.University of California on-campus students, faculty, staff required to get flu shots by Sunday; union filed challenge

All on-campus University of California students, faculty and staff must have a flu shot by Sunday under a revised executive order by UC President Michael Drake.

The directive was initially issued on July 31 by former President Janet Napolitano but Drake updated it on Sept. 29.

According to the executive order, “Effective November 1, 2020, all students, faculty and staff living, learning or working on premises at any UC location must receive a flu vaccine, unless they receive an approved medical exemption or disability or religious accommodation, as described below or in Attachment A.”

There is a process for requests for disability or religious accommodations “may be made by any person subject to this order and will be adjudicated through the interactive process consistent with existing location policies and procedures.”

The order also encouraged universal flu vaccination by Saturday: “Each campus shall strongly encourage universal vaccination for all students, faculty, staff and their families by October 31, 2020.”

The Teamsters Union Local 2010 filed two legal actions challenging the university’s order, which the union claims violates workers’ rights. An Alameda Superior Court judge will hold a hearing on Nov. 4 on another legal action. In the meantime, UC is barred from taking any action against employees who do not get a flu shot.

In a statement, the union laid out its position: “Our team has proposed that the vaccination policy contain a personal exemption with appropriate safety measures, an exception for those working from home, that the vaccination should be provided on work time and free of charge and other protections for our members.”

Rose Ciotta

Friday, October 30, 2020, 5:15 pm

Link copied.Dr. Fauci tells California CEOs reopening schools should be ’the default position’

To the extent possible, the focus nationwide should be on reopening schools, White House coronavirus adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told Silicon Valley business leaders Friday, while also warning that infection rates for the coronavirus were worsening significantly in 40 states.

“The default position we feel should be, as best as possible, to get the children back to school, as opposed to making the default, when you have infections, keep them out of school,” he said during the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s Annual Forum, this year held on Zoom.

Fauci participated on a panel with Dr. Sarah Cody, Santa Clara County’s director or public health, who said her goal has been to “keep the rates of community transmission as low as possible” by restricting business reopenings to enable children to return to schools; this week, the county sued a San Jose church that defied orders to stop indoor services. After hearing her conditions — mask wearing and social distancing for older students, and separate, non-mingling small cohorts of younger students — Fauci said, “The approach that Dr. Cody just outlined makes absolutely perfect sense to me as where you are right now in California.”

Cody called on businesses in Silicon Valley to partner with and “adopt” schools to help solve school ventilation and other reopening challenges and to work with the county to improve public health data, including reporting of Covid-19 infection rates.

John Fensterwald

Thursday, October 29, 2020, 8:35 am

Link copied.Los Angeles schools unlikely to reopen before January

Los Angeles Unified schools are unlikely to open before January, and may not open even then, according to two school board leaders who spoke with the Los Angeles Times.

The leaders said rising Covid-19 cases make it unsafe for many schools to reopen. They also cited the difficulty of changing instruction from distance learning to in-person mid-semester and the logistics of implementing safety procedures, in addition to the fact that some teachers have health conditions that put them at higher risk of complications from the coronavirus.

Zaidee Stavely

Thursday, October 29, 2020, 8:33 am

Link copied.San Diego County school district changes closure criteria after positive cases

A school district in San Diego County has changed criteria for closing middle schools and high schools after six students tested positive at five schools in the first week after reopening, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Under the new rules at Vista Unified, if more than one positive case is reported at a school, the entire school campus will close for two weeks, and if three middle or high schools report at least one positive case, all three campuses will close.

The previous guidelines only required students and teachers in classes with a person who tested positive to quarantine for 14 days. That caused schools to have to hire substitutes to cover other class periods for teachers who were quarantined, and students who were quarantined were unable to attend classes by teachers who had not been quarantined.

Zaidee Stavely

Thursday, October 29, 2020, 8:21 am

Link copied.East Bay Area school district unveils new elementary school named after Michelle Obama

West Contra Costa Unified officials will unveil the district’s newest campus, named after former First Lady Michelle Obama, on Thursday.

The new elementary school campus replaces that of Wilson Elementary school in the North & East neighborhood of Richmond. Though the district has not yet returned to in-person instruction, district officials will be giving a virtual tour of the campus 11 a.m. Thursday on Facebook Live.

West Contra Costa Unified’s newest campus, Michelle Obama School, replaces Wilson Elementary School in Richmond. District officials will unveil the innovative new campus Thursday on Facebook Live, since the district has not yet returned to in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Charles Anderson/Epicycle Media)

In January, the school’s parent teacher association called on the West Contra Costa Unified school board to approve the name change, feeling as though “Wilson Elementary School” did not represent the school’s community. The parent teacher association felt as though naming the school after the former first lady would be “fundamental to this fresh start,” since the facility features a 21st century design, including a public plaza and “flexible learning spaces,”— open spaces with movable furniture intended to facilitate collaboration and personalization.

“The Michelle Obama School Grand Opening marks a historical turning point for the way our society views and experiences education,” Principal Claudia Velez said in a news release. “The children in our community will be at the center of deeper learning opportunities that are driven by their own interests and passions in an environment that will be flexibly tailored to their needs.”

Throughout the state, communities have been considering renaming local schools that some say glorify racist figures. The school’s previous namesake, former president Woodrow Wilson, was a segregationist who voiced racist views about Black people. An Edsource analysis in June found that 29 schools in California were named after Wilson.

Ali Tadayon

Tuesday, October 27, 2020, 3:24 pm

Link copied.Just nine counties remain in state’s purple tier, paving way for more schools to reopen statewide

Only nine of California’s 58 counties remain in the most restrictive purple category of the state’s four-tiered, color-coded county Covid-19 tracking system, meaning that more school districts may soon be able to reopen for in-person instruction. The nine counties still in purple are: Imperial, Los Angeles, Madera, Monterey, Riverside, San Bernardino, Sonoma, Tehama and Tulare.

These nine counties include 290 school districts and 559 charter schools that educate more than 2.5 million public school students, not including private schools. Schools in these counties cannot reopen for in-person instruction unless they receive elementary waivers for students in grades TK-6 or adhere to strict guidance for small groups of students.

Since last week, Glenn, Mendocino and Shasta counties have moved to the red tier, meaning schools can reopen for in-person instruction if the county remains in red for 14 consecutive days. In addition, Contra Costa, Marin, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties saw their status improving and moved from the red to orange tier. Calaveras County moved from orange to the least restrictive yellow tier, said Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s Health and Human Services secretary, during a Tuesday news briefing.

Gov. Newsom said movement into lower tiers does not mandate that schools or businesses reopen, but gives them the ability to do so in collaboration with local health officials and elected leaders. They must also comply with state requirements for Covid-19 testing, the use of personal protective equipment and other guidance, he said.

Newsom also announced a new partnership with western states that are providing experts, including many from universities in California, who will review data the CDC releases with vaccines to help ensure their safety and prioritize who will get them.

Theresa Harrington

Monday, October 26, 2020, 3:39 pm

Link copied.Power outages cancel classes across California

Schools in 36 California counties have either cancelled classes or asked students to study at home independently because of PG&E power shutoffs.

The utility shut off power to some areas of the counties on Sunday because of high winds and dry conditions.

The shutoffs, called Public Safety Power Shutoffs by the utility, have impacted students in parts of Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Lake, Madera, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yolo and Yuba counties.

Many schools in the rural areas have returned to in-person instruction, but most schools are still in distance learning because of Coronavirus concerns, with students learning from home on Zoom.

This year wildfires burned 4 million acres and killed 31 people in California.

Go here to find out when PG&E will restore power to each county.

Diana Lambert

Friday, October 23, 2020, 11:00 am

Link copied.Chronic absenteeism jumps 10% in Fresno Unified during distance learning

As Fresno Unified looks to reopen schools, data shows thousands of more students have been chronically absent this year compared to last year, the Fresno Bee reports.

Data from Fresno Unified shows a 10% jump in chronic absenteeism since last year, reaching 22.8% this year. The majority of students who are missing class are from low-income families and in grade 6 or below.

“The reason we’re still seeing that is … not everyone had the technology,” Kristi Jackson, attendance coordinator for Fresno Unified, told The Bee. “They may have had a computer but no Wi-Fi. Quite a few students who missed school are because of the absence of technology.”

Sydney Johnson

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 5:00 pm

Link copied.LA County school districts no longer require union, parent support when applying for waivers to reopen

Schools in Los Angeles County no longer need to have support from teachers and other employees when they apply for waivers to reopen elementary schools.

Previously, when applying for those waivers, schools and districts in the county have been required to include a letter of support from unions or groups representing teachers and other school employees. The county’s Department of Public Health informed school leaders on Thursday that it would be dropping that requirement, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Districts have also needed to submit letters of support from parent groups, but that requirement is also being dropped.

Alex Cherniss, superintendent of the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, said in an email to EdSource the changes are “welcoming news” for public schools.

“The prior waiver system benefited families that can afford private and independent schools, of which over 90% of the waiver applications were submitted,” Cherniss said. “Now, public schools can show proof of consultation with teachers and parents and move forward with submitting the application. This is what we have been advocating all along and it is encouraging that cooler heads have prevailed.”

However, some districts may continue to negotiate with their unions before considering whether to apply for waivers. That includes Long Beach Unified, the county’s second biggest school district that enrolls more than 70,000 students.

“We’re collaborating with our labor partners, and we would still want their support for any reopening waiver application. We don’t have a pending waiver application here, though we continue to explore that option,” Chris Eftychiou, the district’s public information director, said in an email.

Michael Burke

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 4:30 pm

Link copied.Lawmakers urge Gov. Newsom to restore funding for science teacher program

Nearly 20 California legislators have sent a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom asking him to restore funding for a professional development program for California science teachers that focuses on best practices and how to implement the Next Generation Science Standards that California adopted in 2013. The Exploratorium K-12 Science Leader Network is offered through the San Francisco-based Exploratorium museum and was previously supported with $3.5 million in state funding before the funds were cut from the current state budget.

Since 2016, the program has partnered with California school districts to train more than 800 teacher leaders in the science standards and teaching strategies, and about 90% of those teachers work in Title 1 schools that enroll large numbers of students from low-income families. The Exploratorium had plans to expand its reach to nearly 125,000 teachers by 2023 before the funding was lost.

Since the coronavirus pandemic has caused most schools to offer distance learning, the Exploratorium science teacher program has shifted its lessons online to provide teachers with science teaching strategies specifically for a virtual classroom. “The impact of COVID-19 with the requirements for Californians to remain at home and the shift to distance learning imposes new demands for teaching and learning science,” the letter reads.

Sydney Johnson

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 1:28 pm

Link copied.Liberty Union School District sets reopening date

Liberty Union School District in Contra Costa County will reopen campuses on Jan. 12.

Wednesday district trustees approved a hybrid model of instruction that has students rotating onto campus on alternate days to reduce class sizes, reported the East Bay Times. Teachers opposed the plan, saying it would increase their workloads and would not keep students or teachers safe.

Contra Costa County is in Tier 2, or the red tier, of the state’s Covid-19 tracking system. Since the county has remained in that tier for more than two weeks schools are allowed to reopen. — Diana Lambert

Diana Lambert

Thursday, October 22, 2020, 11:47 am

Link copied.General Motors will donate a half million masks to schools

General Motors is donating 500,000 cloth face masks to California schools, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced at a press conference Thursday.

The California Department of Education will prioritize distribution of the masks at schools with a high number of Native American, Black and Latino students, who have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, Thurmond said.

General Motors has donated over 6.5 million face masks to people around the world since the pandemic began, said Gerald Johnson, the company’s executive vice president of global manufacturing, in a video played at the press conference.

“In the early stages of the pandemic we mobilized our teams to help support those in need in these times of crisis,” he said. “With speed and urgency we mobilized thousands of employees who worked around the clock to save lives by producing face masks, protective equipment and critical care ventilators.” — Diana Lambert

Diana Lambert