To cap a tumultuous week, today Governor Newsom announced his state budget proposal for the coming year. Despite a struggling economy, and high unemployment, the top line budget numbers are hopeful for public education: a record $85.8 billion for K-14 schools, along with additional funding for teacher recruitment and training, and special education, among other programs. Additionally, the governor estimates that there will be an additional $6.7 billion from the federal government for K-12 as part of the most recent stimulus package.
While the CFT is heartened by the fact that our schools won’t be facing steep cuts in the coming year, our schools are facing long term deficits, and CFT will continue to advocate for a budget that raises more resources for our schools — not just to address the damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic, but to create a school system that meets the needs of all students, with a focus on addressing the needs or our most vulnerable students.
Governor Newsom also provided more details on his California’s Safe Schools for All Plan. The plan would offer $2 billion in funding to California school districts who submit a completed COVID-19 safety plan by February 1, that includes offering in-person instruction starting February 16 to all TK-second students, students with disabilities, foster students, homeless students, and other students without internet access. Districts that receive the additional funding would need to offer in-person instruction for all TK-second grade students, and can provide additional plans for TK-sixth grade reopening in March.
While CFT is supportive of additional funding to assist districts to have schools in-person, the union does have some fundamental concerns about the plan that we have expressed to the governor’s office.
- First, the entire conversation about in-person education is premature. With the continued surge in cases, the rapid spread of the new, more communicable strain of the virus, and our over-strained hospitals, it may be weeks if not months until it is safe to be in-person. Just this week Governor Newsom called it “A surge on top of a surge.”
- Second, the funding comes out of Prop 98. The CFT believes these funds should be in addition to our Prop 98 funds.
- Third, there are serious equity concerns about the plan. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit low-income communities and communities of color the hardest. It is very likely that infection rates in district’s in these communities will far exceed the threshold set by the governor, while school districts in wealthier communities will be able to resume in-person instruction sooner.
- And finally, the CFT fundamentally believes that any in-person plan must include the vaccination of all teachers and school workers. While the state released some proposed guidance that teachers and school workers will be next in line to receive the vaccine, the issue of vaccines is largely absent from any of the governor’s current plans.