DEMOCRATIC LAWMAKERS REBUFF GOV. NEWSOM ON PLAN FOR EARLY CALIFORNIA SCHOOL REOPENING

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By Ricardo Cano, CalMatters

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.

Photo:  Gavin Newsom briefs the press in late December on his plan for reopening schools. Image from livestream

February 21, 2021 (Sacramento) - Disagreements between California’s Democratic-controlled Legislature and its Democratic governor over a plan to reopen schools came to a head this week as lawmakers introduced a bill they say would safely bring students back to campus this spring.

Senate Bill 86 calls on California’s school districts to offer some sort of in-person instruction to students in kindergarten through sixth grade and older vulnerable students by April 15 if case rates in their county fall below 7 positive cases per 100,000 residents, known as the red tier.

But less than 24 hours after lawmakers announced their plan, Gov. Gavin Newsom signaled he would veto it if it reached his desk, arguing it would slow down school reopenings across the state. The governor said at an Oakland vaccination clinic Friday that, beginning March 1, the state plans to earmark 10% of incoming vaccine doses for teachers and school employees set to return to campuses.
 
“We would be, if we adopted that proposal, an extreme outlier,” Newsom said Friday. “And the only cohort that they’re requiring to go back, it’s on April 15. That’s almost near the end of the school year.”
 
Some parts of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s original plan remain in SB 86, such as allocating $2 billion for reopening costs — if districts meet the reopening deadline — and $4.6 billion to address students’ learning loss. The new proposal still calls for negotiated agreements from local unions.
 
But it differs from Newsom’s position in a key way: lawmakers said their plan mandates that local public health departments offer vaccines to school employees before they return to work in person, which Newsom has publicly said the state lacks the supply for and would delay reopening campuses.
 
“If the governor wants this (teacher vaccinations) to be a priority, it will be a priority,” said Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, chair of the Assembly Education Committee.
 
Key Assembly members said they planned to advance their proposal on Monday as a piece of the state budget, though their bill may be more of a negotiating tactic than a proposal that will be signed into law. It would be highly unusual for Democratic lawmakers to send Newsom a major budget item that they hadn’t previously agreed on.
 
Newsom said Friday that the lawmakers’ plan “is something that I cannot support” in part because it ties bringing back elementary students on campuses to a case rate that he said is more stringent than what the state allows, which is 25 positive cases per 100,000 residents. He expressed hopes that the state’s new vaccine allotment for teachers would translate to more schools reopening.
 
“That is a significant set-aside,” Newsom said. “We’re operationally standardizing that in every part of the state.”
 
Negotiations — which Newsom described earlier this week as “stubborn” — are expected to continue in the coming days. 
 
“This is a major step, but it is not cause for taking a victory lap,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a statement. “This legislation moves us closer to our common goal of getting each student safely into an optimal learning situation.”
 
Teacher vaccinations remain the central point of contention in negotiations between the governor, Legislature and labor unions. 
 
Newsom, public-health experts and guidance have said that schools can safely reopen without requiring teachers to be vaccinated so long as they implement strict measures such as widespread masking and distancing. Requiring all teachers to be vaccinated before reopening campuses would likely mean that most public schools would remain closed this spring, Newsom has said.
 
Teachers unions have listed vaccinations as part of their demands before physically reopening schools and agreements in some local districts that have yet to reopen, such as San Francisco, hinge on vaccinations. The new proposal by Democratic Assemblymembers Phil Ting, Patrick O’Donnell and Kevin McCarty more aligns with unions than Newsom’s stance.
 
Claudia Briggs, spokesperson for the California Teachers Association, said in an email Thursday that the union was reviewing the bill’s details.
 
"We appreciate the legislative proposal in prioritizing safety in opening schools for in-person instruction,” Briggs said. “The April 1 deadline for school districts to submit safety plans gives administrators time to put together their plans to ensure required safety measures are in place.”
 
In a Thursday call with reporters, legislators characterized their plan as realistic, arguing the state has the vaccine supply to make it happen. They put the onus on the governor, saying he has the power now to further prioritize educators, if he wants to.
 
“We think this is a plan that is implementable, that’s workable,” Ting said. “We think that the dates are achievable.”
 
The vaccine reality so far has been muddy. 
 
Newsom last month reshuffled the state’s prioritization list to include teachers in the broad tier 1B Phase 1 group that also includes first responders, farm workers and Californians aged 65 and older. A chaotic rollout and dueling priority groups have translated to a wide variance in how quickly local public health departments have been able to give vaccines to teachers. 
 
The city of Long Beach, which operates its own public-health department, will have offered all of its K-5 teachers the vaccine once the school district begins in-person instruction for elementary students March 29, according to Mayor Robert Garcia. Other counties, such as Santa Clara and Fresno, either have not said when they’ll offer vaccinations to teachers or said they wouldn’t be able to vaccinate teachers until April because of scarcity.
 
Teacher Vaccines in California Determined by Location, Luck
 
Newsom voiced optimism last week that a deal with the Legislature was imminent, but walked back hopes for a deal Tuesdaywhen he said negotiations remained “stubborn.” The governor has said repeatedly that the state does not have the supply to offer all teachers vaccinations before reopening campuses.
 
Newsom had initially pushed for a Feb. 15 target date under a proposal that stalled after widespread criticism from superintendents, teachers unions and state lawmakers. 
 
The governor had told superintendents that the date was intended to help prod districts toward reopening, and state officials expressed concerns last month of a limited window for reopening as the calendar days tick away.
 
Most of the state is experiencing declining coronavirus case rates after a brutal winter and are allowed by the state to reopen elementary schools, which the legislators said helped make their case for a feasible April 15 return. 
 
Public pressure on state leaders to act has increased in recent weeks as most of the state’s 6.1 million students remain learning from home. Though many smaller districts in rural and inland parts of the state have physically reopened — some as early as August — most of California’s public-school students remain in online learning, and the state as a whole remains behind the rest of the country in offering in-person instruction. 
 
Laurel Rosenhall contributed to this article.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s state Capitol works and why it matters.


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Comments

And Clinton didn't inhale...

https://hannity.com/media-room/busted-again-new-footage-shows-newsom-inside-restaurant-where-dining-banned-says-he-didnt-eat/

Keep doing what you're doing...

...and you will keep getting what you're getting..... Vote Democrat/liberal and get more trash, more illegals, more taxes, more third world policies, etc. Newsom deserves to go and only a conservative can pull CA back from the precipice. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-9262397/How-California-Florida-took-different-approaches-ended-result.html "Liberalism is a mental disorder." Michael Savage

Recall Newsom

https://www.foxnews.com/politics/california-ex-mayor-gov-newsom-behested-payments-recall-threat

alena

you are a trump troll

Shifting priorities will doom Newsom

If you want the schools open, vaccinate the teachers. Seniors are very important too, but outside of health care settings, seniors can in fact shelter in place and stay safe. So why were they the priority? Well, they are dependable voters and this may be the main reason. But clearly getting seniors back to the Cracker Barrel has been more of a priority than opening our schools. Leading to this mess of late re prioritization and what has been overall chaotic, ever changing policy. As for teachers, who did not sign up as first responders or front line health care workers, why would they be willing to go back unvaccinated? And while schools can be opened relatively safely (this is true), that is also putting an awful lot of faith in school districts to provide and manage the resources. We all know what happens in places that are already understaffed and ragged, as our schools are. I know what teachers must be thinking. They have all worked in districts where rosy plans normally and regularly fall apart because of systematic under resourcing. Especially considering that substitute teachers - who are absolutely a key part of keeping our schools running - often don't have health benefits and therefore have even less interest in playing Covid-19 roulette. It is possible to open safe, but not too likely that our schools can do it with consistent competence. I'm more convinced than ever that Newsom will be recalled. Wacky righties might be able to get their recall election, but I can imagine teachers will have the opportunity to select someone more favorable than Newsom through their sway in the Democratic party. Teachers can win the recall that Rs have teed up for them. Newsom is playing with fire by building a coalition of professionals, unions and the disaffected but ornery and highly motivated right wing, all against him. Not to mention, parents! I think all of the equivocation, finger in the wind, triangulation and frequent shifting of attention to different voters who want (or need) vaccinated has already pleased nobody by trying to please everybody. It was a needle that could not be threaded. Unclear priorities and shifting with the wind may doom Gavin Newsom. I will vote for recall, and for the most likely progressive candidate to replace him.

stalbaum

on line learning is working fine. why do you want to waste millions on a recall? his term is up in 2023. I know why, it is because when you trump loving righties do not get your own way you cry "RECALL". SHAME!

you misunderstand santeecitizen

No. I am against the recall. It is just that I may very well vote to remove if it happens. And only if someone better than Gavin Newsom - preferably to his left - has a good chance to win, otherwise I will vote no on recall. Newsom is good on many issues I support, but just deeply flawed in so many other ways, especially regarding Covid. Forcing teachers to work without a vaccine is unacceptable! One more thing, online learning is not fine. It is highly flawed. Yet it remains the main way we can continue teaching right now. It is better than nothing.