California's public schools could tap into $2 billion from the Legislature if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to an agreement announced Monday between Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders. California, the most populous state, has 1,037 public school districts, more than 6.1 million students, and about 319,000 teachers. Most public school classes have not been held in-person since March of last year because of the coronavirus. Many districts have struggled to reach agreements with teachers unions on the best way to return students and staff to the classroom. Newsom, who could face a recall election this year spurred by his handling of the pandemic, had been at odds with legislative leaders on how to encourage school districts to bring students back, the AP reports. Monday's announcement marked a turn, with Newsom, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon praising each other for agreeing. All are Democrats.
The deal sets aside $6.6 billion for schools, with $2 billion for schools that return to in-person instruction by March 31. The remaining $4.6 billion, which is not contingent on a return to classrooms, will be distributed among schools to help with learning loss through actions such as targeted interventions for vulnerable students or extending the school year and summer school options. Newsom cast the reopening as essential to getting California's economy back on track and as a move toward gender equity, as mothers have shouldered much of the burden of having children at home. "You can't reopen your economy unless you get your schools reopened for in-person instruction," he said. School districts are controlled locally, but the state can incentivize them to act with money. The president of the California Federation of Teachers said the plan doesn't meet every benchmark the union sought but improves upon prior plans. Prioritizing vaccines for teachers—10% of the state's allocation with a minimum of 75,000 per week—is "a huge victory," he said.
(Read more California