Los Angeles Unified School District officials and labor leaders are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to beef up his proposed “Safe Schools for All” reopening plan to reflect the disproportionate impact months of COVID-19-related distance learning has had on students in low income communities.
Superintendent Austin Beutner was joined Monday morning by representatives of more than a half-dozen district unions to outline their concerns with the plan Newsom introduced on Dec. 30 as part of his $$227.2 billion state budget proposal.
The plan includes $2 billion in schools funding and seeks to reopen most campuses by February with elementary students and those with special needs coming back first. The plan also calls for increased COVID-19 testing and mandatory masks for school staff and students.
But Beutner and others within LAUSD contend this not enough.
“While it prioritizes the reopening of public schools, with the potential for additional school funding, the plan falls well short of what is needed to provide help to the students and communities we serve,” Beutner and his allies said in a joint statement. “Los Angeles Unified stands ready to resume in-person instruction as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so, but we cannot do it alone.”
The statement outlines several key areas where they think Newsom’s proposal falls short including funding for all schools to redress the disproportionate impact on low-income communities; using public health rather than K-12 educational funding for school-based COVID-19 testing and vaccinations; and providing a clear state standard for COVID-related health issues in schools.
Other improvements recommended by LAUSD include:
integrating school-based health services, including the direct distribution of state funds to school districts to cover the costs of testing, contact tracing and administration of vaccines;
allowing for additional instructional time and targeted funding for students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, including English-learners, students with disabilities, and homeless and foster youth;
providing funding to support the reopening of school facilities including, child-care services;
additional funding to maintain clean, safe, and sanitary schools;
financial support for infrastructure and transportation;
and a COVID relief plan to help local and state government officials drive down COVID case rates in high-needs communities so local schools can reopen safely.
“State and local public health officials must tackle this challenge head-on or we will be left with more of the same,” the statement concludes, “continued high rates of the virus in low-income communities that make it unsafe to reopen classrooms.”
LAUSD officials said cooperation at all levels of government would be the primary path toward reopening California’s schools.
“The last 10 months have been a struggle,” the statement said.
“Elected leaders at the state and local level need to join with us to discuss what we’ve learned, what can be improved and how we can all make sure the next 10 months are better for students and families than the past 10 months.”