Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon highlighted an agreement on March 1 on a $6.6 billion budget package to accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction across California and empower schools to immediately expand academic, mental health and social-emotional support, including during the summer.
“Since the height of the winter surge, we have successfully shifted the conversation from whether to reopen schools to when,” Newsom said. “Now, our collective charge is to build on that momentum and local leadership, and – just as critically – do whatever it takes to meet the mental health and academic needs of our students, including over the summer.”
Public schools throughout the state will be allocated $6.6 billion under the proposed budget package. Approximately $2 billion will fund safety measures to support in-person instruction, such as personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and COVID-19 testing. An additional $4.6 billion would fund expanded learning opportunities, such as summer school, tutoring and mental health services. Together, the funds empower schools to develop and execute comprehensive strategies to reopen and expand programs to address the social-emotional, mental health and academic needs of students.
All public schools will be required to offer in-person instruction to students in kindergarten through second grade, and high-needs students in all grades, by the end of the month. Districts will lose 1% of eligible funds every day thereafter if they do not open. The requirements aim to help ensure schools begin to reopen as soon as possible, and to build trust and confidence to continue phased reopening.
As students return to in-person instruction, all public schools will also be empowered to meet the needs of the whole child. Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants allocate $4.6 billion to local educational agencies based on the equity-based local control funding formula, with an additional $1,000 for each homeless student. The funds will be for supplemental instruction and support for social and emotional well-being.
Schools will be able to use the funds for providing more instructional time, such as summer school, and accelerating progress to close learning gaps through tutoring, learning recovery programs, mental health services, access to school meal programs, programs to address pupil trauma, social-emotional learning and support for credit-deficient students.
The package will also codify multiple successful state programs to support safe school reopening, including vaccine prioritization for K-12 school staff. The governor has committed to setting aside 10% of vaccines for education workers. The state is collaborating with county health departments, the Biden administration and providers such as Kaiser Permanente to accelerate vaccine access for K-12 school staff.
The package also codifies data reporting requirements, including requirements for schools to report reopening status and COVID-19 safety measures. The statutory requirements will help build on efforts to increase transparency, including interactive geospatial maps displayed on the Safe Schools Hub, according to state officials.
Additionally, the package allocates $25 million to the State Safe Schools Team, which provides technical assistance, oversight and accountability to the over 10,000 public schools. The funding will allow the team to conduct a safety review of any school with two or more COVID-19 outbreaks. The state’s efforts to accelerate safe school reopening include delivery of three months of PPE and safety supplies to all schools.
For information, visit schools.covid19.ca.gov.
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