SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGET) — As the state legislature Monday passed several urgent budget-related bills in response to the pandemic, one aiming to reopen California schools was left out.
Said Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), “Hopefully we can do that in the very short term and get a plan together to get our schools open in a safe manner.”
The legislature’s school reopening plan would require schools to reopen by April 15 if they want access to money meant to help with in-person instruction. It also requires local health departments to make vaccines available to teachers and staff working in schools bringing students back into the classroom.
Authors of the bill originally planned to bring it up for a floor vote Monday. Instead, lawmakers were met with a letter from dozens of districts and administrative boards from across the state listing concerns including timing, collective bargaining and testing logistics within the plan.
“I thought the letter was tone deaf, it showed a complete lack of understanding where parents and students are,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco).
Later in a hearing, some lawmakers said they’re worried about equity for rural and disadvantaged districts along with how funds are distributed.
Said Assemblyman James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus), “Every school faces the same thing with COVID-19, we shouldn’t be treating districts and giving them less money to deal with that same issue, especially when they’re the ones that actually did the work to reopen.”
The plan also faces opposition from the governor, who said he cannot support it for because he says it would slow down the process of reopening.
“I want the administration to be attentive to my community and not just telling us, ‘Here’s what we’re going to give you,'” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens).
While lawmakers and the administration agree schools need to reopen, the debate over how and when remains.