Lawmakers postpone vote on school reopening plan amid opposition across state

California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) – While the state Legislature Monday passed several urgent budget-related bills in response to the pandemic, one aiming to reopen California schools was left out.

“Hopefully, we can do that in the very short term and get a plan together to get our schools open in a safe manner,” said Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell, D-Long Beach.

The legislature’s school reopening plan would have required schools to reopen by April 15 if they want access to money meant to help with in-person instruction. The plan also requires local health departments to make vaccines available to teachers and staff working in schools to bring 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 joint letter from dozens of districts and administrative boards from across the state Monday morning listing out concerns about the plan, including timing, collective bargaining and testing logistics within the plan.

“I thought the letter was tone deaf, it showed a complete lack of understanding of where parents and students are,” said Assembly Member 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.

“Every school faces the same thing with COVID-19,” said Assembly Member James Gallagher, R-Nicolaus. “We shouldn’t be treating some districts and giving them less money to deal with that same very issue, especially when they’re the ones that did the work to reopen.”

The plan as it stands also faces opposition from Gov. Gavin Newsom who said he cannot support the plan because 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 Assembly Member Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens.

While lawmakers and the administration agree schools need to reopen, the debate over how and when remains.

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