School reopening proposal clears state Senate despite concerns

California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The California Senate Budget Committee unanimously passed the state’s reopening proposal on Tuesday.

The $6.6 billion budget plan aims to reopen schools by the end of March, despite some concerns of the plan’s effectiveness to actually incentivize schools to reopen, target disadvantaged students, and make up learning lost in classrooms amid the pandemic.

“It was difficult to work out something that really met the needs of all the stakeholders,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley.

The plan promises $2 billion in grants for COVID-19 safety measures for schools, as long as they open up classrooms before April 1.

It also provides $4.6 billion for all schools regardless of their opening status to address learning loss however school leaders see fit.

Critics argued this might not help.

“This looks like not a negotiation between the Legislature and the governor’s office but a hostage situation between the governor’s office and the (California Teacher’s Association), and it appears the CTA is winning,” said state Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore.

“We believe this can take all the excuses off the table,” added Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.

In a similar committee in the assembly, no vote was taken.

Lawmakers signaled they’ll support the bill, but they worry for communities with high rates of COVID-19 transmission.

“A lot of concerns that we are making it easier for school districts that are better positioned to open to reopen and communities like mine to be at the end of the list again for those reopenings,” said Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

“What is the point of vaccinating a teacher and reopening schools when you have essential workers who are parents, who are maybe a cook in the back of a restaurant, in a kitchen somewhere, who does not have access to the vaccine?” Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles, said. “Those families are still exposed.”

Both chambers are preparing for a full vote on the proposal Thursday.

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