State Lawmakers Introduce “Safe and Open Schools” Plan

State lawmakers introduced their plan Thursday to get California students back in the classroom as quickly as possible. But the Safe and Open Schools proposal is already receiving criticism from school districts and the governor, who says it does not go far enough.

Senate Bill 86 and Assembly Bill 86 (Ting) would allocate $6.6 billion to school districts. $4 billion would be used to address learning loss, while another $2 billion in incentives would be made available to districts that resume in-person learning by April 15.

The proposals would also require county public health departments to make vaccines available to on-site teachers and staff. As Cal School News reported last week, a recent survey suggests just over a dozen counties are vaccinating school faculty. “What’s unclear is whether districts with approved plans and union agreements to reopen would have to delay opening until their teachers are vaccinated,” EdSource reports.

“While the Legislature’s proposal represents a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough or fast enough,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement Thursday. “I look forward to building on the growing momentum to get our schools open and continuing discussions with the Legislature to get our kids back in school as safely and quickly as possible.”

Newsom had previously outlined his own proposal offering $2 billion in incentives for schools that reopen. But his plan set the reopening date much earlier and encouraged, rather than required, counties to vaccinate their teachers. A number of the state's largest school districts opposed the governor's plan. And yesterday, they made it clear they aren't too thrilled with the Legislature's efforts either. 

KRON4 reports that lawmakers received "a letter from dozens of districts and administrative boards from across the state Monday morning listing out concerns including timing, collective bargaining, and testing logistics within the plan." Ting called the letter "tone-deaf," but it seems to have accomplished its immediate goal. Monday's vote on the Safey and Open Schools plan was postponed.