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Superintendents of seven of the state’s largest school districts, including Los Angeles and Long Beach Unified, sent a letter to Governor Newsom pushing back his news draft plan to reopen schools.

Newsom’s Safer Schools for All Plan, released in late December, encourages California’s 1,037 public school districts to develop plans to offer in-person instruction, once COVID-19 cases reach a low enough threshold.

Once guidelines for reopening these districts have been approved by local unions, county and state officials, and passed, they may be eligible to receive $ 450 per student. For LAUSD, that could mean at least $ 180 million.

But local school districts are not yet ready to get on board. The letter argues that Newsom’s plan disadvantages large school districts, like LAUSD, which serve low-income families – many of whom are infected with coronavirus at disproportionate rates.

If these schools cannot open for in-person learning due to skyrocketing case rates, local districts fear losing the money offered. The letter calls on Newsom’s proposal a reversal of the state’s commitment to fair funding:

“Affluent communities where family members can work from home will see schools open with more funding. Low-income communities that are most affected by the virus will see schools remain closed with less funding. “

The state plan recognizes the potential for uneven support and promises to weight funding for “districts serving students from low income families, English learners and youth in foster care”.

Instead, the signing superintendents want money to be available for all schools.

Superintendent Jill Baker of Long Beach Unified says she signed the letter because she supports reopening schools, but wants to see a statewide standard to do so, instead of leaving care for individual districts, as suggested in the Safer Schools Plan.

“None of the school districts were consulted on the plan before it was released,” Baker said. “The letter was an effort to describe what we believe needs to be done from here, as the largest urban districts in the state of California.”

Baker says Long Beach Unified may only receive residual funding under Newsom’s plan, after smaller districts with lower case rates get the first opportunities.

As of Jan. 5, Los Angeles County had a daily rate of new cases of 65.8 positive coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, adjusted for testing. For classes to reopen, a county must report fewer than 28 positive cases per 100,000 population over an average of seven days.

“Our proposal is to think about an equity-centered approach, to look at the variation in needs across the state,” Baker said.

In addition to the requests for equal funding, the letter makes several other statements and recommendations:

  • Districts say they are ready to open their doors for in-person instruction whenever health standards are met and the state determines schools should be open
  • Basic reopening guidelines should be standardized for each school district. Once secure, all districts should be mandated to offer in-person classes
  • Public health funds, not money from Proposition 98, should be used for COVID-19 testing at the school site and other health related costs
  • COVID-19 tests and vaccinations should be integrated into schools and funded by the state
  • Additional public funding should be spent on reopening in-person special education
  • State should explain how COVID-19 workload thresholds are determined to decide whether in-person teaching is safe

UPDATE, Jan. 7, 12 p.m .: This article has been updated to reflect the rate of coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County.

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