Legislature Passes $6.6 Billion Safe School Reopening Plan
SACRAMENTO — Today, the Legislature passed a $6.6 billion early budget bill to bring students back to the classroom safely and address the educational impacts of the pandemic. AB 86 seeks to balance the need to get children back into the classroom with the real challenges school districts are facing.
“Everyone can agree that the need to get students back in the classroom is urgent – particularly for those from underserved communities with working parents,” said Assemblymember Boerner Horvath. “As a mom of two kids in public schools, I have been working to balance the safety of our schools with the need for student success since the pandemic started. The plan we passed today is a big step forward to ensuring we provide the necessary resources, implement safety protocols, and do everything we can to ensure our children, as well as the teachers and staff who educate them, can safely return to in-person instruction. While not perfect, this agreement is a much needed $6.6 billion investment in our schools to hopefully help our children come back from this year stronger and more successful than ever.”
School districts located in CDPH-designated “purple tier” counties that wish to receive their share of the $2 billion in one-time Proposition 98 funds will need to submit school safety plans and return all TK-2 students to in-person learning by March 31. Those located in “red tier” counties will need to do the same for all TK-6 students by March 31, and all districts need to bring back vulnerable students in TK-12 by that date in order to receive the full funding. After March 31, school districts will be penalized by 1% for each day in-person instruction has not returned, with full forfeiture if the return is not accomplished by May 15.
San Diego County has been a leader among urban counties since the first vaccine shipments arrived and continues its aggressive efforts to vaccinate teachers, essential workers, and the most vulnerable. Due to the region’s diligent adherence to public health guidance, a return to the “red tier” is now imminent. In Assembly District 76, all elementary schools have or will be open by this deadline and most middle and high schools are in the active process of reopening, with three districts requesting waivers from the California Department Public Health to potentially reopen their middle and high schools in the next few weeks.
“There has been much misinformation about AB 86 and I want to be clear — there is nothing in AB 86 that would prevent any of my schools from implementing or expanding their reopening plans and on the contrary, it provides my districts with the funding and support they need to safely support continued reopening across our district,” emphasized Boerner Horvath. “There is so much more we need to do for our kids, but this bill is an important step towards delivering what our schools, families, communities, and especially our students, need.”
The remaining $4.56 billion in one-time Proposition 98 funding is designated for multi-year learning loss mitigation plans, with allocations determined using the Local Control Funding Formula. Funding can be used for everything from increased instructional support to school year extensions, summer school programs, and personalized counseling and tutoring services to address the broad range of social and emotional impacts that may emerge in the wake of the pandemic. The plan also requires that the 10 percent of the vaccine supply the state has already begun setting aside for teachers and school staff be made available to the schools that are actively reopening or have a plan to do so by May 15.
AB 86 was the product of months of negotiation between the Assembly, Senate, and the Governor, and now moves to his desk for signature.