Democratic Lawmakers break from Newsom on school reopening

Written by Amanda Angulo

Democratic lawmakers have constructed a bill without the Governor’s input and Newsom is not happy about it. 

Senate Bill 86, demonstrates that Newsom and the lawmakers have different views on what is necessary to reopen school safety, and it involves vaccines. The Assembly expects to put the bill to a vote on Monday, regardless of full approval from Newsom. This could force the Governor to choose between abandoning his bill or slowly reopening by vetoing the bill, as reported by Ricardo Cano.

The bill, introduced by three Democratic lawmakers, requires local public health departments to offer vaccines to on-site school employees, whereas Newsom’s plan, which was introduced in December, stands by the claim that vaccines are unnecessary for the reopening of schools, also backed by CDC officials. Gov. Newsom wanted to reopen elementary schools to reopen by Feb. 16 but was delayed by districts, unions and lawmakers.

SB86 also calls on school districts that have reached the Red Tier, to offer in-person instruction to vulnerable K-6 students no later than April 15 in order to receive full funding. This would leave about six weeks of in-person instruction before the school year ends in late May or early June. If they do not reopen by the deadline, the schools will not receive full funding.

As of Feb. 16, only three counties are in the Red Tier, while 52 remain in the Purple Tier, resulting in most schools not making progress to reopen safely and efficiently in California.

Most California schools remain online and 6.1 million students are still learning remotely, leaving the state behind from the rest of the country in offering in-person instruction. 

Parents are unhappy and frustrated with the way in which state and local districts have handled reopenings throughout the pandemic and have thus begun a grassroots organization called “Open Schools Now”.

Meanwhile, tensions continue to grow over school closures. After a video that includes profanity surfaced on Wednesday in the Bay Area, in which a school board president said parents “want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back.”

Parents became enraged at the comment and began circulating a petition calling on board members to resign. Students and families infuriated by the San Francisco school board for delaying a reopening vote led to a protest on Thursday in which they logged into remote classes outside closed campuses. 

In Los Angeles, some families are boycotting online classes altogether by not logging into the online classes and protesting in-person in front of their schools.

Photo by Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times