California education news: What’s the latest?

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

Tuesday, February 9, 2021, 1:21pm

Link copied.Most counties still not vaccinating teachers, survey says

Most counties in California have not yet begun vaccinating teachers and school staff against Covid-19, despite efforts to move them higher on the state’s eligibility list, according to a survey of county superintendents.

Gov. Gavin Newsom moved teachers up on the state’s vaccination eligibility list twice in January, a month after announcing an ambitious plan to reopen some schools as early as February.

Despite that, a survey by the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association given on Jan. 26 shows that only 14 counties, mostly rural, are vaccinating school staff. Forty-eight of the state’s county superintendents answered the survey.

Most of the superintendents — 26 — said that while vaccinations hadn’t started in their county there were plans to do so. Eight superintendents said that there were no plans or timeline in place to vaccinate teachers in their counties.

Vaccination clinics in five of the counties where teachers are being vaccinated are at schools, according to the survey. That could change in the future. About 40% of the county superintendents who answered the survey indicated there are plans to use school campuses, including a few college campuses, to vaccinate school staff in their counties. Several others said they would be willing to use school sites if asked.

Only two of the counties already vaccinating teachers are using school staff to give shots, but more than a dozen counties waiting to begin teacher vaccinations would be willing to use school personnel to vaccinate school staff, according to the superintendents surveyed.

A few superintendents cited liability concerns or a lack of school nurses for not using school staff, while others said county health departments are administering the vaccines.

Some of the county superintendents surveyed expressed frustration about the lack of vaccines and the wide disparities between counties when it comes to who gets priority for vaccinations. County health departments generally make decisions about who gets priority for vaccinations and where vaccine clinics will be located, although they often coordinate with school districts when it comes to employee vaccinations.

Diana Lambert

Monday, February 8, 2021, 1:58pm

Link copied.Add $4 billion more for schools, community colleges to revenue projections

State revenues continued to surge the past two months, bringing in an additional $10.3 billion than Gov. Gavin Newsom projected in his January budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Schools and community colleges can anticipate $4 billion as its share of the unexpected revenue from December and January — if current projections for the remaining of the fiscal year hold up.

Newsom chose an unusual source to announce the financial news: the popular social media site viewed by millennials and younger viewers, TikTok. The 26-second video was then reposted on Twitter. “That’s going to put us in a position to do even more to help small businesses, to support our vaccine administration and to support our efforts to safely reopen our public schools for in-person instruction,” Newsom said. “This is money that will also allow us more resiliency and to help build our reserves.”

About 38% of the state’s General Fund revenue goes to K-14 schools through the Proposition 98 formula. When they passed this year’s budget in June, three months into the Covid recession, Newsom and the Legislature projected an $8.6 billion drop in Prop. 98 funding. Instead, because of what’s been called a K-shaped recession — big unemployment and income loss of low-income families but a rocketing recovery by the wealthiest 1% of earners, who pay about half of the state’s income taxes — the year is projected to end up more than $21 billion ahead of last year’s $21 billion Prop. 98 forecast.

Newsom won’t officially change the figure until his May budget revision. While he said the extra money would help reopen schools and help students recover from lost learning time, others will call for using the newfound cash to pay off the full $11 billion in short-term debt, called deferrals, owed to schools. Last month, Newsom proposed paying off $7.3 billion and carrying $3.7 billion over to next year.

John Fensterwald

Monday, February 8, 2021, 1:48pm

Link copied.Newsom hints imminent deal with legislature on school reopening package

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Monday that a deal with the state legislature for an “early action package” to reopen schools should be finalized this week.

Newsom, who spoke at San Diego’s Petco Park, said he hopes to reveal “very, very shortly” the terms of the package, which would include a “prioritization framework” to get teachers vaccinated.

The proposed $6.6 billion early action package has been scrutinized by five unions representing school employees, which stated last week that they want a plan that would require that the state offer vaccinations to school employees before they return for in-person instruction.

Newsom, last week, said his view on vaccinations is “aligned” with the position of Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Rochelle Walensky and the Biden administration, which is that vaccinating teachers is not a prerequisite for safely reopening schools.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, February 8, 2021, 12:05pm

Link copied.San Francisco Unified reaches tentative reopening agreement with labor unions

After months-long negotiations, the San Francisco Unified School District and its employees’ unions on Sunday announced a tentative agreement for school reopenings. The agreement for the district of 53,000 students outlines two scenarios:

In one scenario, schools would be allowed to reopen in the red tier, which is one tier below the purple category in which the city currently sits. San Francisco would move to the red tier if the seven-day average of all Covid-19 tests that are positive remains between 5% and 8%. Schools classified under the red tiers must remain there for five consecutive days before reopening, according to state policy. Under this scenario, however, vaccines would be required for all on-site staff.

In the second scenario, the district may reopen without the distribution of vaccines to all on-site staff if San Francisco moves to the orange tier. The change to the orange tier would require that the seven-day average of all Covid-19 tests that are positive remains between 2% and 4.9%.

The agreement does not indicate a reopening will soon occur, however, as San Francisco remains in the state’s most restrictive purple tier and vaccines are not yet readily available for teachers and school staff.

“This agreement sets the state to safely reopen schools in San Francisco,” said Susan Solomon, president of the United Educators of San Francisco. “Now we need city and state officials to step up and make vaccines available to school staff now, while UESF continues to focus on finalizing agreements around classroom instruction, schedules and continuing to improve remote learning for the students and families who choose not to return even with these standards in place.”

In Southern California, Los Angeles Unified campuses remain closed and labor negotiations are ongoing. In his prepared remarks Monday morning, Supt. Austin Beutner said that schools may reopen for the district’s elementary school children if the district had access to 25,000 doses of the vaccine, to cover those not already eligible, and the rate of positive Covid-19 cases lowered in the county.

“San Francisco authorities worked together and brought the rate of infection under control and the area for some time has met the state standard for school reopening,” Beutner said. “But that’s just not the case in Los Angeles.”

Betty Márquez Rosales

Thursday, February 4, 2021, 5:28pm

Link copied.Marjorie Taylor Greene ousted from House education committee

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Georgia, a controversial freshman member of the House of Representatives, has been tossed off both the Committee on Education and Labor and the Budget Committee Thursday.

The vote to remove Greene from her committee appointments, 230-199, was largely along party lines, although 11 Republicans voted with Democrats, according to the Washington Post.

Top Democrats, the National Education Association and anti-gun activists have called for Greene to be removed from the committees for spreading lies and conspiracy theories about school shootings, supporting the  execution of prominent Democratic politicians and for supporting the theories of QAnon, a conspiracy theory group that supports former President Donald Trump.

Greene has endorsed describing the massacres at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, and in Parkland, Florida in 2018 as staged or “false flag” operations aiming to build support for gun control.

On Wednesday House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., refused to remove Greene from her committee appointments, despite calls from Democrats and others.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, February 4, 2021, 5:06pm

Link copied.Virus variant first seen in Britain detected in UC Berkeley students

A more transmissible variant of the coronavirus that first emerged in the United Kingdom has been detected in two students at the University of California, Berkeley.

The university said Thursday that there is no indication that the two students have been on Berkeley’s campus excepted to be tested for Covid-19. Both students had recently arrived in the United States from abroad.

The variant is estimated to be about 50% more infectious than earlier variants, according to UC Berkeley. It is one of multiple variants currently circulating around the globe.

“It is unfortunately no surprise that this and other variants are being detected locally, given the extent of viral spread happening currently regionally, nationally and internationally,” Dr. Anna Harte, medical director of Berkeley’s University Health Services, said in a statement. “With more viruses circulating, emerging strains that are more transmissible will tend to dominate. What is more concerning is whether they may become resistant to our vaccines, and how lethal they are. The more efficiently we can contain the spread, the better chance we have of nipping this in the bud.”

Michael Burke

Thursday, February 4, 2021, 3:01pm

Link copied.Bill could make more students eligible to attend UC and CSU

A bill introduced in the California Senate today could increase the number of high school students who complete the A-G courses required to attend the University of California or California State University.

The A-G sequence is the minimum standard needed for admission to both state university systems.

Senate Bill 309, introduced by Sen. Connie M. Leyva, D-Chico, would establish a $200 million grant program for school districts. Most of that — $150 million — would be used to increase the number of A-G courses in school districts or charter schools that have fewer than 45% of its student completing the courses required to attend the universities. The other $50 million would fund grants for districts that include the A-G requirements in their local graduation requirements, but have a A-G completion rate below 80%.

The bill also requires schools to begin to notify parents about high school graduation requirements, as well as eligibility requirements for the state universities when their child is in eighth grade.

State data shows that 51% of students who graduate from public schools meet the minimum requirements to attend a state university, Leyva said.

“SB 309 will help ensure that all high school students, regardless of where they may live or study, have the opportunity to take coursework that will prepare them to attend a public university here in California,” Leyva said. “By leveling the playing field and empowering school districts to better help their students will certainly help to set even more California students on a path to success.”

The bill must be approved by both the state Senate and Assembly and signed by the governor before it becomes law.

Diana Lambert

Thursday, February 4, 2021, 12:13pm

Link copied.Dream Act introduced again in U.S. Senate

A bill that would offer permanent residency and a path to citizenship for about 2 million undocumented people — including hundreds of thousands of Californians — who were brought to the United States as children, was introduced again in the U.S. Senate this week.

The bill, known as the Dream Act, was introduced by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). The details of the new bill are not yet available, but to qualify for conditional status under previous legislation introduced by the two senators, immigrants would have to have been brought to the U.S. before they were 17 years old, lived here for at least four years, pass a background check and be enrolled in or graduated from high school. Once they complete at least two years of college or military service or work for at least three years, they would be eligible for permanent residency, and later, citizenship.

California has the largest number of people who could benefit from such a bill — about 562,500 people, according to one analysis.

Similar legislation has been introduced in Congress at least 10 times over the last 20 years, but has never passed. This time it is being introduced at the same time the Biden administration has pushed forward a much broader bill that would give a path to citizenship to about 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, including those who came here as adults. That bill is expected to face fierce opposition.

Several immigrant rights organizations welcomed the legislation, but said they would push for broader reform.

“We will not accept the half-measures of the past. We urge our champions in Congress to stand tough for the 11 million people without status who daily contribute to the strength and heritage of this nation,” said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), based in Los Angeles.

The organization also shared a statement from Edson Hernandez, a young immigrant from California brought to the United States when he was 3 years old: “I want to remind members of Congress that I am also working for legalization for my parents and for everyone who has been waiting even longer than me. DREAM is a start, but we need more.”

Zaidee Stavely

Wednesday, February 3, 2021, 3:34pm

Link copied.Standardized testing should resume, disability rights groups say

A coalition of 25 disability rights groups is urging Miguel Cardona — who’s undergoing confirmation hearings this week to be President Joe Biden’s Education Secretary — to reinstate standardized testing for all students beginning this spring.

According to the coalition, students with disabilities have been disproportionately harmed by the lack of testing during the pandemic, because special education has been such a challenge to provide virtually. Services for disabled students have varied widely by school and district, and without standardized testing it’s impossible to know how those students are faring, said Meghan Whittaker, director of policy and advocacy for the National Center for Learning Disabilities.

“Without assessments, we have no way to know how much these students have learned,” Whittaker said. “And if assessments are waived again this year, we’ll lose two years of data.”

Last year, after the coronavirus pandemic forced most schools to transition to distance learning, then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos allowed states to waive the annual standardized tests required under the Every Student Succeeds Act.

Students enrolled in special education still received some assessments through their individualized education programs, which DeVos did not waive, but — along with their peers in general education classes — they did not take the usual math, language arts and science tests required of students beginning in third grade.

Cardona, who is expected to be confirmed, is likely to decide within the next few weeks whether testing will resume this spring. The testing window begins in March and closes at the end of the school year.

The Autism Society of America, Disability Rights and Education Fund, National Down Syndrome Congress and American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities are among the groups that issued the statement.

Carolyn Jones

Wednesday, February 3, 2021, 1:36pm

Link copied.College access advocate named to Biden education team

The U.S. Education Department announced Michelle Asha Cooper will help lead the Biden-Harris administration’s higher education policies as acting assistant secretary for postsecondary education.

Cooper, a longtime advocate for educational, racial and economic equity, was most recently president of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), a national nonprofit organization that supports improving college access.

“She is one of the nation’s most trusted voices in championing success for students in higher education regardless of race, socioeconomic background or gender,” said Mamie Voight, IHEP’s interim president, in a statement.

Last week, the department announced a number of senior political appointees to lead the new administration’s education priorities.

Ashley A. Smith

Wednesday, February 3, 2021, 12:11pm

Link copied.Newsom says schools can reopen even before all teachers are vaccinated

Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday said schools can reopen without waiting for all teachers and education workers to be vaccinated for Covid-19. His remarks come despite demands from the California Teachers Association that teachers should be vaccinated before in-person instruction begins.

In a letter to Newsom last week, the state teachers union said vaccines are a “key element to safe in-person school reopening.” Teachers have voiced that though the governor has called for teachers to be prioritized for vaccines, inconsistent supply and lack of state coordination have prevented most counties from being able to vaccinate teachers en masse.

During a news conference Wednesday announcing two new community vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles, Newsom stated that his stance on teacher vaccinations is aligned with that of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention under the Biden Administration. The CDC said Wednesday that vaccinations for teachers shouldn’t be a prerequisite for reopening schools, since data shows that social distancing and masking can significantly lower the risk of spread.

“We can safely reopen schools as we process a prioritization to our teachers of vaccinations and still keep our teachers, our paraprofessionals, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, who are essential to making our schools work and keeping our kids safe at the same time,” Newsom said.

Ali Tadayon

Wednesday, February 3, 2021, 11:54am

Link copied.Cal State LA and Oakland will host federal community vaccination sites

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Biden Administration announced Wednesday a new pilot project to open Covid-19 vaccination sites in Oakland and Los Angeles.

California State University, Los Angeles, will host the Southern California site and the Oakland-Alameda Coliseum will host the other. The project is part of a federal effort to establish 100 vaccination sites nationwide within the Biden Administration’s first 100 days. Both locations will be operated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

“Cal State LA is ready to work with President Joe Biden, Gov. Gavin Newsom and their administrations to provide badly needed vaccinations,” said Jose A. Gomez, Cal State LA’s executive vice president and provost. “Our students  and alumni live in communities with some of the highest Covid-19 infection rates per capita in Los Angeles County.”

Both locations are in some of the most diverse and socioeconomically challenged communities in the country. Registration for vaccine appointments at both sites will be available at the state’s MyTurn scheduling system in the coming days, according to the governor’s office.

“These new sites will help us get available supply to some of the California communities most in need,” Newsom said, in a statement.

Ashley A. Smith

Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 5:36pm

Link copied.Project to help educate teachers on homeless and foster students launched at San Jose State

San Jose State University has launched a research project focused on the state’s foster and homeless youth and how to share effective approaches in meeting the needs of these students with teachers and school districts across the state.

The $300,000 grant to San Jose State’s Connie L. Lurie School of Education is part of a $3 million grant the Legislature approved last year to create a CSU Center to Close the Opportunity Gap. Cal State Long Beach is administering the center.

One aim of the project is to create a fresh curriculum on foster youths and youths experiencing homelessness that will be incorporated into CSU credential and certification programs for prospective teachers, school counselors, social workers and administrators. There also will be trainings on best practices for existing teachers and school specialists.

The timing is right. Foster and homeless youths, who already were facing academic and social-emotional challenges, have been disproportionately affected by the Covid pandemic. Yet, their struggles risk going unseen under distance learning. Although unemployment and fear of transmission have likely put more families in housing jeopardy, the number of reported students who lived at least part of the year on the street, in cars, shelters, motels or “doubled up” with other families dropped 6% to 194,709 students in 2019-2020, according to a new report from the California Department of Education.

Leading the project are Brent Duckor, associate professor in teacher education (brent.duckor@sjsu), and Lorri Capizzi, a lecturer in the school of education school and a specialist in foster youth who advises the CSU Guardian Scholars Program for emancipated foster youth (lorri.capizzi@sjsu.edu).

John Fensterwald

Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 3:16pm

Link copied.California launches $1 million competition to expand internet access

California education officials are asking the community for input on how to close the state’s stubborn digital divide. On Tuesday, a $1 million competition kicked off that seeks to gather ideas on how to address the persistent challenge of funding and supplying internet in some of the state’s most rural and remote areas.

Almost a year since schools closed their physical campuses and switched to distance learning, up to 1 million California students still lack broadband needed to participate in online classes, the California Department of Education said on Tuesday. Across California, nearly 25% of African American students do not have access to the internet, compared with 21% of Hispanic or Latino students, 30% of American Indian students and only 14% of white students, according to the California Department of Education.

“I believe the next great ideas are already out there — living on the drawing boards of research teams or in the homes of aspiring entrepreneurs — and are just waiting for an infusion of resources to make them a reality. I believe the California Digital Divide Innovation Challenge can be a game-changer for solving a problem that has plagued underserved communities for decades,” said State Superintendent of Public Schools Tony Thurmond. “If we truly want to ensure all students have access to the technology and tools that not only help them access their learning remotely — but will be needed for success the rest of their lives — we cannot rest until the internet flows into households like electricity.”

Anyone is allowed to submit ideas for the competition, and in particular, officials are hoping to tap researchers, entrepreneurs and problem-solvers from all industries to develop technology, policy and strategic partnerships that could expand internet access. Interested participants are invited to reach out to innovationchallenge@cde.ca.gov.

The competition is funded by external private partners, including Genentech, GM Motors and Gary K. Michelson, founder and co-chair of Michelson Philanthropies and the Michelson 20MM Foundation.

Sydney Johnson

Tuesday, February 2, 2021, 2:21pm

Link copied.Trinity, Alpine counties move to ‘moderate’ orange tier

As the number of new Covid-19 cases begins to decrease throughout the state, Trinity and Alpine counties were moved from the “substantial” red tier to the “moderate” orange tier on the state’s reopening tier system.

However, 54 of the state’s 58 counties still remain in the most restrictive tier on the system, California Health and Human Services officials announced at a news conference Tuesday. The 54 counties in the purple or “widespread” tier as of Feb.2 include 978 public school districts and 1,302 charter schools, serving a total of 6,068,011 students — 99.93 % of the state’s total K-12 enrollment.

Sierra County remained in the orange tier Tuesday, and Mariposa remained in the red tier.

Under the state’s guidelines, schools can offer in-person instruction after remaining in the red 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.

As of Tuesday, counties that had an average adjusted case rate below 25 per 100,000 population include: Alpine, Amador, Del Norte, Lake, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Placer, Plumas, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Sierra Siskiyou, Trinity, Tuolumne and Yolo.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, February 1, 2021, 5:07pm

Link copied.Contra Costa School Board Association calls on county to prioritize teachers for vaccines

School board members from school districts in Contra Costa County are calling on county officials to ensure teachers and other education workers have “priority access” to Covid-19 vaccines.

The Contra Costa County School Board Association — which represents all 18 public school districts in the county — sent a letter to the county board of supervisors as well as the county department of health services Monday. It urged them to ensure educators have priority in getting vaccines and to provide clear and consistent communications about how education and childcare workers are to receive their vaccines.

Contra Costa County School Board Association president Cherise Khaund, who is also board president of the Mt. Diablo Unified School District, said they sent the letter after hearing talks at the state level of re-configuring the current vaccine distribution plan. That plan calls for teachers to make appointments to get Covid vaccines later this month.

“Prioritizing education workers for vaccination distribution will greatly help school districts to finalize [their] return to school plans,” Khaund said in the letter. “This also ensures the health and safety of teachers and staff who have been coming to work throughout the pandemic, or those who have taken leaves of absence to care for themselves or family members.”

Teachers at West Contra Costa Unified — in the Richmond area — have expressed concern over returning to campuses without being vaccinated. District officials said it did not apply for the Governor’s reopening incentive program, the deadline for which was Monday.

Ali Tadayon

Monday, February 1, 2021, 3:14pm

Link copied.LA Unified Superintendent explains what needs to happen before schools reopen

Los Angeles Unified Supt. Austin Beutner on Monday outlined four components that must be addressed before reopening schools:

  • A reduction in the level of Covid-19 community spread in Los Angeles.
  • Clear school safety standards set by the state.
  • Risk-mitigating health practices put in place by schools.
  • Vaccinations for school staff provided by health authorities.

In his prepared remarks, he questioned the reasoning behind reopening certain establishments, such as malls and cardrooms.

“It’s been 10 very long months and the Los Angeles area has yet to meet the state COVID standards for schools to reopen,” Beutner said. “If schools are truly a priority, why are malls and cardrooms being allowed to reopen when the Los Angeles area is nowhere close to meeting the state standards for schools to reopen?”

Beutner, superintendent of California’s largest school district, has remained an ardent critic of the state’s plan to reopen schools. According to his prepared remarks, LA Unified and its labor partners, plus six other large school districts in the state, will soon be meeting with Gov. Newsom’s staff and health advisers to further discuss the state’s new reopening standards.

Beutner has advocated for using LA schools as vaccination sites and most recently on Monday sent a letter to President Joe Biden requesting additional vaccines to administer at school sites across the district.

“As we begin implementation of this program, we would respectfully ask your administration to consider providing an additional allotment of vaccine doses for this pilot program, which will help provide access in the communities hardest hit by the virus,” wrote Beutner in a letter co-signed with Los Angeles Supervisor Hilda Solis. “As we prove this model can work, this can be an example for other local communities across the country.”

Betty Márquez Rosales

Monday, February 1, 2021, 1:34pm

Link copied.University of California lecturers rally, seek increased job protections

Hundreds of University of California lecturers are rallying Monday as they seek a new contract and increased job protections.

In a statement, the University Council-AFT, which represents librarians and lecturers in the University of California, said it has been one year since the expiration of a union contract for those workers. 

In a press release, the UC-AFT noted that even before the Covid-19 pandemic, the average UC lecturer taught for fewer than two years and most were “pushed out of the university after just one year.” Between the 2019-20 academic year and the current academic year, more than 2,000 lecturers have been put out of work, according to the UC-AFT.

The organization said in the press release that “common sense evaluation and rehiring practices” should be adopted across the system.

“UC-AFT teaching faculty have gone above and beyond to ensure instructional continuity during COVID-19. It’s long past time to provide job continuity for faculty whose work UC admin has declared to be essential,” UCLA lecturer and UC-AFT President Mia L. McIver said in a statement.

Michael Burke

Monday, February 1, 2021, 12:53pm

Link copied.$4.6 billion Newsom proposes for learning loss too much at once, LAO says

The Legislative Analyst’s Office is recommending that Gov. Gavin Newsom scale back the $4.6 billion he is proposing for extended learning, summer school and learning-loss mitigations, while agreeing with the overall purpose and allocating the bulk of it for the students struggling most.

In a Jan. 29 analysis, the LAO, the Legislature’s independent analyst, said the money, when combined with $6 billion in Covid relief Congress approved in December, may be too much for districts to spend efficiently at one time. Some districts may end up using the money on projects they already were planning, resulting in no net benefit to students, it said.

The money is from an unexpected one-time windfall due to a 2020-21 budget shortfall that Newsom and the Legislature incorrectly forecast. Newsom wants lawmakers to quickly pass his request so that districts can plan for summer. The $4.6 billion doesn’t include $2 billion in financial incentives, now stalled in the Legislature, to bring back elementary students to school quickly.

The LAO recommends approving about a third of the $4.6 billion and to spread it out, with $1 billion for enrichment and academic activities this summer and $500 million in academic supports over two years. That would prevent a fiscal “cliff” if state and federal funding is reduced in 2022-23, the LAO said.

As for the remaining $3 billion, the LAO urges paying down some of the outstanding $3.7 billion in short-term debt from deferrals owed to districts, and helping districts defray higher employee pension costs two years from now.

John Fensterwald

Monday, February 1, 2021, 12:49pm

Link copied.Parents of children with special needs can get top priority for vaccination

Parents and caregivers of children with certain disabilities can receive top priority for vaccinations against Covid-19, according to the California Department of Developmental Services.

According to an announcement issued in mid-January, parents and caregivers are in the top tier — 1A, under the California vaccination plan — if they care for children with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, Down Syndrome and other health conditions that require the use of a ventilator, oxygen or other technology.

To qualify, parents and caregivers should bring verification from their local Regional Center, the state agency that provides services to children and adults with developmental disabilities, to a vaccination site or their usual health care provider.

People with intellectual or developmental disabilities often have compromised immune systems and can be at high risk for sickness death from Covid. Those who care for them are considered “health care workers” under the department’s guidelines.

Carolyn Jones