More than a half-dozen educational and community organizations have joined in a campaign led by the Los Angeles Unified School District to apply pressure on the state to adopt a school reopening plan that would, in their opinion, better address the needs of the state’s most vulnerable students.
Representatives from 28 organizations, including Partnership for LA Schools, Educators for Excellence-Los Angeles and the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, sent a joint letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, Jan. 13, outlining measures they’d like to see be part of his proposed Safe Schools for All reopening plan.
Their suggestions mirror those laid out by superintendents from Los Angeles, Long Beach and five other large urban districts in a letter sent to Newsom last week, as well as in a joint statement issued by LAUSD’s superintendent and its various labor employee groups on Monday, and again in a resolution the LAUSD school board adopted Tuesday.
As part of its resolution, the school board directed Superintendent Austin Beutner “to pursue all advocacy efforts to prevent the disproportionate impact of the Governor’s Plan on students of Los Angeles Unified.”
Critics say Newsom’s proposal would result in more affluent districts, where COVID-19 case rates are lower, reopening sooner while districts serving families hardest hit by the pandemic would continue with distance learning because their communities’ high infection rates would mean that returning to campus would not be an option.
The Safe Schools for All proposal aims to incentivize districts to reopen for in-person instruction by providing grants. Districts would receive a base amount of $450 per pupil — and up to more than $700 per pupil in schools that serve a high concentration of low-income students, English learners and foster youth — if they submit a reopening plan by Feb. 1.
That deadline, along with one to reopen by mid-February, are virtually impossible to meet for districts in communities with high COVID infection rates, critics say. The Newsom administration has indicated that districts in counties with high infection rates could still qualify for the full grant amount if they reopen later “if they open for in-person instruction pursuant to state and local health guidance once their rates of community spread sufficiently decline.”
Still, some are worried that districts might lose out on funding nonetheless, particularly if they can’t meet all the criteria for the grant program, such as reaching an agreement with their local teachers union to resume in-person teaching.
“While pleased that ‘Safe Schools for All’ prioritizes the reopening of public schools with additional one-time state funding, the plan fails to address the needs of … urban school districts who serve a majority of students from low-income and under-resourced communities,” the letter from the community organizations states.
Among the several measures the groups are asking for is a “COVID relief plan from local and state government officials to drive down COVID case rates in high-needs communities to enable local schools to open.”
L.A. County, the current epicenter of the pandemic, has reported 958,497 confirmed coronavirus cases and 14,564 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began, according to the county’s public health department.