Lawmakers to Vote on School Reopening Plan Thursday

State lawmakers will vote on a bill Thursday that would offer $2 billion to school districts that reopen classrooms for younger and high needs learners by April 1.

Assembly Bill 86 reflects a long-awaited deal with the governor that was announced on Monday. To qualify for the grants, even districts with high coronavirus case numbers would need to bring back in-person instruction for TK through second grade and for high needs students of all ages. Older elementary students would return when their counties are in the red tier. The deal does not mandate teacher vaccinations or coronavirus testing for schools that reopen by the end of the month.

The governor, who is facing a recall effort, is undoubtedly hoping the plan will take some of the political heat off. That isn’t looking likely. Open schools advocates have complained that the plan leaves middle school and high school students out of the equation. Meanwhile, the state’s largest local teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has reamed the proposal, calling it "a recipe for propagating structural racism.” 

Schools that refuse to reopen by the April 1 deadline will lose 1% of the funding for each day they do not comply. That has upset UTLA. Although LA Unified and the union are still in reopening negotiations, both sides have made clear that teacher vaccinations are key.

E. Toby Boyd, President of the California Teachers Association, sounded a more laudatory tone this week.

“The plan announced today by Gov. Newsom and legislative leaders gets us one step closer to rejoining our students for in-person teaching and learning,” he wrote in a statement Monday. “As community infection rates decline, more counties move into less restrictive tiers, and educators are increasingly vaccinated statewide, this plan will help ensure transparency and accountability.”