SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state Legislature if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to a new agreement announced Monday between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state’s legislative leaders.
The agreement sets aside $6.6 billion for schools that return to in-person instruction by March 31. The bill is a deal between Newsom, state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, all Democrats. It was confirmed by Atkins’ office. Newsom’s office has scheduled a formal announcement for late Monday morning.
During a press briefing Monday, Newsom broke down the allocation of the $6.6 billion. He said $2 billion is set aside for grants to help schools return to in-person instruction and $4.6 billion is set to help provide flexibility to those schools.
Two state officials familiar with the plan said schools must return to in-person instruction at least through second grade to get the money. Districts in regions with coronavirus case numbers at low enough levels must return to in-person instruction for all elementary school grades, plus one grade each in middle and high school.
The bill would not require all students and staff to be vaccinated before returning to the classroom. And it would not require districts to get approval from teachers’ unions before returning, the officials said.
"We do not think vaccinations are prerequisites to safely reopening our schools, that's not my opinion, that's the opinion of the CDC," Newsom said.
During the press briefing, Newsom was pressed on the state's promise to provide data the number of students who have reported positive for COVID-19 since returning to in-person instruction. Newsom said the state has been providing this data "on an updated basis", however one reporter pointed out the last update was for the month of January.
"We have specifically set aside money in this agreement to hold us to account and to enforce more transparency," Newsom said. "There is specific language in this agreement as it relates to reporting, 24-hour reporting requirements."