Even when working from home, with schools and businesses closed,
the union connects us and makes us stronger. Here we answer many
of the questions we have heard from you, through our Tele-Townhall meeting and
through our website. However, situations vary greatly around the
state so please contact your local union
leaders for information that may be even more specific to
your district or place of employment.
THE BIG PICTURE
Is there an end to this? When will we return back to normal life?
We don’t have a definitive answer to this question. Please know
that everyone in the greater CFT and education community is going
through this Covid-19 crisis together. AFT local unions are
working with employers across the state to protect the health and
safety of our members and communities. The CFT is working with
state officials to protect public health and continually provide
guidance and advice on education issues both administrative and
We struggle with the same challenges as our members. But we
also know that having a union means that our thousands of members
can support one another. The union gives us a voice to make
our concerns heard clearly, and the power to act on behalf of our
members, students and communities. No matter how long this
pandemic requires us to maintain physical distance from each
other, our unions gives us a way to remain connected. We
may not have all of the answers, but we know that our union will
help us all get through this together.
What do we know about the possibility of schools being closed
until fall? If we are out until the end of the school year, will
our pay and benefits be uninterrupted until the end of the school
It’s possible that schools could be closed until fall, but no one
can say for certain. The Governor’s March 13 Executive Order
maintained all funding for K-12 schools through the end of the
2019-20 school year, regardless of any loss of instructional days
or attendance due to the pandemic. The order was explicit about
its intent to maintain pay for school employees during the
COVID-19 crisis. Community college funding is similarly
maintained for the duration of the school year under separate
legislation about emergencies. Governor Newsom’s leadership and
our advocacy ensured that school and college employees could
continue to be paid through summer, even during school
We have been working with local unions to negotiate emergency
agreements that make sure this happens in every school and
college district. Just because the revenue is available doesn’t
mean districts will make the right decisions. We’ve supported
many unions in negotiating salary guarantees, enhanced leave
provisions, alternate work assignments, and health and safety
protections. Your local unions can provide you any recently
negotiated agreements with your district.
What is going to happen next school year? Will this cause teacher
and staff layoffs in 20-21?
We can’t predict the answer to this question, and we suspect that
circumstances will vary greatly from district to district,
employer to employer. Some districts had already announced
layoffs for the 2020-21 school year, even before the pandemic
struck. The economic losses caused by the pandemic suggest some
very difficult budget years ahead. Please stay in contact with
your local union and your employer so you know what is happening
in your specific workplace.
What are we doing to ensure the cleanliness of schools? Will
there be new protocols when school is back in session?
The question of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
has drawn much new attention. Most of the emergency
agreements being negotiated now between unions and employers
specify what materials must be available for cleaning. There may
also be new guidance forthcoming from the CDE and public health
agencies that mandate other new protocols. We are currently
participating in these discussions with state agencies, and will
report new information to our members as soon as it becomes
I was sick and wanted to stay home but the principal asked to see
a doctor’s note. How does someone get proof of infection from a
doctor when there are so few tests and you have to wait to get a
Your local collective bargaining agreement (contract) may
normally require doctor’s notes in certain instances, but many
local unions have negotiated a new agreement to address the
current health crisis. CFT has suggested new terms that allow
members to comply with all public health directives, provide
additional paid leave as needed, and protect members at higher
risk for contracting COVID-19. We strongly believe that anyone
who is sick right now should be able to remain home without any
proof of illness.
Check with your local union to see
what terms may have recently changed. Local leaders should
contact their CFT Field Representative immediately if employers
are preventing members from following public health advice and
risking the safety of themselves and others. We believe this
behavior by employers is reckless and inconsistent with public
health orders, and may also conflict with the new federal
emergency leave that begins on April 2.
I am considered at higher risk of severe illness if I contract
coronavirus, but my employer says I still need to report to work.
What can I do to protect myself?
If you meet the CDC requirements for those at elevated risk due
to contracting COVID-19, we believe you should put public health
directives and your personal health first. Public health orders
require all non-essential workers to stay at home unless
absolutely necessary. The CDC has designated the following groups
- People age 65 and older
- People with chronic lung disease or asthma
- People with serious heart conditions
- People who are immune-compromised
- People with other serious underlying medical conditions
(diabetes, renal failure, liver disease, severe obesity)
The CFT has recommended that all local unions negotiate emergency
agreements that allow these high-risk members to either work from
home, or remain home on paid administrative leave (if unable to
work). Many local unions have already done so. Check with your local union to see whether
they have negotiated a new agreement that covers your situation.
You may also be eligible for short-term disability, because your
underlying condition now renders you unable to work while
following public health orders. We recommend you immediately
request a disability accommodation to work from home or be placed
on paid administrative leave if unable to work from home. You can
use sick leave to maintain your pay until your accommodation is
granted, or until alternate agreements have been reached with
What are my union protections?
The most important protection is the requirement that employers
negotiate with the union over any actions they take in response
to this crisis. In many local unions, this has meant expanded
leave policies, alternate work assignments, expanded health and
safety protections, and continuation of pay during school
Even at home with schools and businesses closed, the union
connects us and makes us stronger. Local unions are working with
employers across the state to protect the health and safety of
our members and communities. CFT is also working with state
officials to protect public health and continually provide
guidance and advice on education issues both administrative and
Do I have to use sick leave for the time that our school is
No school employee should be forced to take sick leave in
response to a school closure. Governor Newsom’s March 13
executive order maintained funding for K-12 schools through the
2019-20 year, and a similar funding maintenance is now in place
for community colleges. The stated intent of these measures is to
maintain regular pay for employees during the current emergency
measures. Please contact your local union or CFT Field
Representative if you are being forced to use sick leave as a
result of a school closure and denied access to other available
Are we still being paid during school closures? What do I do if I
contract COVID-19, care for an ill family member, or have to
quarantine myself? How do I address childcare needs if I’m
required to work? What can my union do to help me in the midst of
To address these concerns (and many more), we have been vigorous
in our advocacy for our members with the state government and by
helping local unions negotiate new agreements directly with
Governor Newsom’s March 13th Executive Order maintained funding
for K-12 schools through the 2019-20 year, and a similar funding
maintenance is now in place for community colleges. The stated
intent of these measures is to maintain regular pay for employees
during the current emergency measures. Federal relief passed in
early March also made an additional two weeks of paid emergency
leave available to most of our members, to be used prior to any
accrued sick leave.
These federal and state actions allowed us to develop and
negotiate agreements with many employers across California to
address these concerns directly. Many local unions have secured
agreements that maintain pay in the event of closures, utilize
paid administrative leave for illness related to COVID-19, and
provide expanded leave provisions for illness and childcare
challenges. Even without a new agreement, the Education Code
provides all school employees five months of partial
(differential) pay if they exhaust all their paid leave but
remain ill. Ask your local union about any recent agreements
reached with your employer, and have them contact their CFT Field
Representative if assistance is needed securing these terms for
I heard there is a possibility of schools being closed for the
rest of the school year. Will our pay and benefits really be
maintained until then?
No one can say at this point when schools will open, and when
public health directives to stay at home will be lifted. Some
districts have already announced closures through May 1. We are
very fortunate that Governor Newsom’s March 13th Executive Order
maintained funding for K-12 schools through the 2019-20 year,
with similar funding maintenance now in place for community
colleges. The stated purpose of these measures is to maintain
regular pay for employees during the current emergency measures,
and through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. Keep in
mind that most school employees will be working during this time,
whether remotely or at school and campus sites.
Can I collect unemployment from my full-time high school teacher
job if I hold a part-time essential job since I depend on two
Yes. You may be eligible for a normal UI claim, but if the job
loss was COVID-19 related, you would also be eligible under the
new pandemic assistance rules
I had two jobs and lost one. Then the job I’m still working at is
my most recent employer and there is no reason for unemployment.
You can receive “partial unemployment” benefits. If you lost a
job or income as a result of COVID-19, you would still be
eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.
I apply for a seasonal summer position every year. There is no
reason to believe that I would not be hired for the position. But
this summer, the program is likely to be cancelled due to
COVID-19. I am losing expected and promised employment, but I
haven’t officially been hired for the position yet. Do I qualify
for benefits? How would I categorize this job loss?
If it was customarily part of your regular income that has been
lost due to COVID-19, you would probably qualify as long as you
meet the other eligibility requirements. You can file for
unemployment after you finish your last day of work.
I lost my summer class because of COVID-19, but I had not yet
received my tentative contract. Can I still choose COVID-19?
You must wait to file until after you have completed your last
paid day of class/work.
If I am a part-time worker whose work was ended due to COVID-19,
but am being paid my sick time pay by my employer, when can I
apply for UI? Do I put my last day of work on the claim, or the
last day I receive my sick pay?
You cannot receive UI while on paid leave. You can only file
after you are no longer being paid.
Do teachers need to certify benefits biweekly during the summer?
Typically, K-12 teachers can’t draw summer benefits because their
salary isn’t decreased. The same is true for full-time faculty.
Part-time faculty are eligible for benefits over the summer in
most cases because they have no “reasonable expectation of
employment” in the fall.
I am a part-time faculty member at three community colleges. If
only one of my community colleges cuts my counseling hours (but
my hours remain the same at my other two colleges), I will I be
able to still apply for unemployment. Is that correct?
We believe you are correct, especially if the reduction in hours
is due specifically to COVID-19 related problems.
To qualify for the $600 additional unemployment benefit, you must
be out of work due to the crisis, correct? Part-time faculty will
be laid off at the end of the spring semester, as we are in
“normal” times. Assuming we have not lost a summer class due to
the coronavirus, we cannot legitimately claim that $600. Is that
No. The $600 is being added to ALL unemployment benefits, whether
you qualify for “normal” UI or the new expanded pandemic
Do we have to do anything special on our continue claim form to
receive the added special funds available?
No. If you are eligible for UI or PUA benefits, the $600 will be
added to your regular benefit.
I’m looking at the process for reopening a claim on the EDD
website, I see that in the dropdown answers for “Why are you no
longer working for this employer?” among the choices are “Laid
off due to Lack of Work” and “Laid off due to Lack of
Work—Related to the coronavirus.” Won’t the answer to that affect
eligibility for the $600 expansion?
No. The $600 is also applied to all “regular” unemployment
With the flat $600 on top of the usual weekly amount, is it
possible that someone would receive more in benefits than they
earned before they lost their job?
That may be possible for some people, particularly part-time
faculty and substitutes.
During the school year I work part-time as a substitute teacher
to supplement my income. I was recently furloughed at my primary
job due to COVID-19, and I qualify for unemployment. The EDD
website explains that my work search requirements are met if I am
“registered with a union and meet its reporting and dispatch
requirements.” Does this mean that belonging to this union
satisfies the requirement to search for work every week?
No. That EDD language is geared for construction trades hiring
halls and other unions that have hiring halls where work is
assigned to members. As long as you expect to be re-employed in
the coming months once the pandemic has passed, you also do not
need to be actively searching for work as normally required. You
do still have to be physically able and available to work, per
the customary requirements.
I moved and was going to apply for substitute teaching positions
at the district in my new location, but haven’t been hired yet
due to the schools closing. Do I qualify?
You would most likely qualify for Pandemic Unemployment
I am a carpentry instructor in the carpenters union but work for
the training center. Under my usual occupation, do I file as an
instructor or a carpenter?
You should file as an instructor.
Is an independent contractor or self-employed qualified for
Yes, this was the biggest change. Self-employed and gig workers
are now eligible for an unemployment benefit under Pandemic
Unemployment Assistance (PUA).
I teach in a charter school — do all these changes apply to
charters like mine?
Charter schools are considered Local Educational Agencies under
the regulations crafted by the California Department of
Education, and the Executive Order that maintains funding for the
2019-20 school year with the intent of paying employees applies
to all LEAs.
What testing was suspended by the governor’s executive order? Is
AP testing included in the waiver? Does the testing moratorium
include LPAC and PE test?
Executive Order N-30-20 signed on March 17 suspends the following
- Summative ELPAC testing (an initial ELPAC may still be
required if schools reopen)
- Physical Fitness Test (until students return to school)
- California High School Proficiency Exam for March was
- High school equivalency testing on hold until testing centers
We do not have new information to share about AP testing.
Additional information can be found on the CDE website.
A lot of our families do not have proper digital technology at
home. Are there any immediate plans to address this
socio-economic disparity? Is there state money for this or a
storehouse of equipment available? What is being offered to
teachers and families for internet and devices?
We understand this is a significant issue and so does the state
of California. Discussions are ongoing between state agencies and
education organizations to find workable solutions to In
recognition of this, many internet providers have offered free or
low-cost internet to families in need for at least the next 30-60
California Dept. of Education webpage is just one place
that lists available services.
Districts may not be able to rely on e-learning alone to provide
instruction in communities where students lack the necessary
equipment. There is no way to quickly obtain and distribute
the necessary devices to every student in need. Alternate forms
of instruction may be required in situations where e-learning
cannot be delivered to all students. The CDE
has produced substantial guidance.
CFT has long supported equal access to technology that students
and faculty need, including broadband access at school and at
home. We have repeatedly advocated for the funding
necessary to provide technology and training to every student and
every teacher. We would be able to utilize e-learning platforms
today if our schools had received the funding and support
needed. During this crisis, we will work around the
socio-economic disparities in our communities the best we can.
Our members will meet the challenges in front of us now, just as
we do every day.
Is there any new information on how this will affect special
Everyone involved with education appreciates the challenges that
school closures poses for delivering special education and
meeting IDEA requirements. This is a complicated matter, and new
information is provided frequently through the CDE. The
SPED Guidance Memo released on March 20 is the most
comprehensive to date, but there are frequent updates. Check the CDE’s
Covid-19 website for additional resources and future
How do we ensure that our school district complies with federal
law (IDEA) with school closures, and how are students with IEPs
supposed to receive services?
This remains a challenge for most school districts. The
Department of Education has not waived IDEA requirements, but it
is not clear how to meet IDEA requirements, or comply with IEPs
in the current circumstances when schools are closed. There is
considerable information on the CDE website that addresses this
specifically, including a SPED Guidance Memo released on March
20. CFT is continuing to work with the CDE to clarify
requirements and offer additional guidance to school staff.
Are there resources for special ed distance learning preschool
programs? If so, what are they and how will we access them?
The CDE has been working with many education organizations to
provide additional resources to school staff in order to support
distance learning. There is considerable information on the CDE
website that addresses this specifically, including a SPED
Guidance Memo released on March 20 (see question #10 in
particular). CFT is continuing to work with the CDE to offer
additional guidance to school staff.
Are substitute teachers entitled to any compensation during
school closures? What are we supposed to do without any work or
No specific classification of school employee was addressed in
the Governor’s Executive Order to maintain funding for schools in
2019-20. By maintaining school funding, the intent was to
maintain salaries and benefits for all employees. Substitutes are
not always considered regular employees by districts, and some
have excluded them from salary arrangements during school
closures. Some local unions have been able to reach agreements
for substitute payments based on current long-term assignments or
average weekly hours. Check with your
local union for details.
You may be eligible for two weeks of pay under the new federal
emergency leave provisions (FFCRA) based on the number of hours
you would reasonably have expected to work during the closure.
This new federal leave is required of most employers. We
also recommend that you apply immediately for unemployment
payments through EDD, which has expanded their eligibility during
this crisis. The federal stimulus bill (still being debated on
March 25) would enhance unemployment significantly.
Covered California has
also re-opened enrollment for anyone who needs (or who has lost)
their health benefits as a result of the pandemic. We have
actively supported all of these measures to help the millions of
Californians suddenly out of work, including any members who may
have been left out of negotiated agreements and state orders.
Are classified who are working now getting extra hazard or danger
A few local unions have been able to secure small pay
differentials for employees who are required to work, but there
is no additional funding for hazard pay and this may not be
possible in many districts. The Governor’s orders to stay at home
explicitly exclude “essential workers”, defined as those
employees necessary “to maintain continuity of operation of
the federal critical infrastructure sectors, critical government
services, schools, childcare, and construction, including housing
While school employees can be required to continue working, you
are also entitled to a safe and healthy workplace to the greatest
degree possible under the circumstances. Where employees
continue working, we have helped local unions negotiate stronger
health and safety language that mandates appropriate cleaning
materials and safety protocols. If our schools are unsafe for
employees, they are also unsafe for students. Districts
should take every possible precaution to ensure our schools
Why are maintenance and operations still expected to continue
working during school closures, when no students are present?
The Governor’s Executive Order on March 13 allowed schools to
continue receiving their full funding, with the express intent of
being able to continue paying school employees. This is a
tremendous accomplishment, as it protects our jobs and pay even
while unemployment is soaring in our communities.
The same order requires schools to provide services during a
school closure. For teachers, this means remote
instruction. For classified employees, it means providing school
meals and being able to arrange supervision of students during
regular school hours. This means the site has to be
prepared for possible student supervision, even if students are
currently learning remotely.
CFT has been working with classified local unions to narrow the
definition of “essential workers” so that only the employees
truly needed will be required to work. At the very least,
this would include custodians and food service employees. It may
also include some maintenance and ops workers, and could in the
future include staff to provide student supervision.
Remember that we are public employees and provide vital services
that our students and communities depend on. This is
particularly true when families are losing jobs, have no child
care support, and face food insecurity. We will continue to be
fierce advocates for the health and safety of our members, and to
make sure that our schools remain safe for both ourselves and our
Will this pandemic change the possibility of classified employees
having an option to apply for temporary unemployment during this
summer recess since classified haven’t had an option to apply for
unemployment in the past?
The Classified School Employee Summer Assistance program exists
to provide pay over the summer months for classified employees.
You would most likely not be eligible for unemployment, because
you have not lost any income relative to your usual assignment.
Unemployment benefits are only provided if you lose employment
income due to layoff or a reduction in hours.
Will adult education instructors be able to keep their salary and
Yes, adult educators can maintain their salary and benefits on
the same basis as other school employees in either the K-12 or
community college systems. Specific terms are subject to
negotiations between the district and the union representing
adult educators, and vary between employers. All should maintain
salaries and benefits through the end of the 2019-20 school year.
What are the plans for the community colleges in general? Do the
governor’s executive orders or other legislation provide
direction for continuing instruction and maintaining salaries and
assignments during closures?
Education Code (Title 5, section 58146) provides continuity of
apportionment in the event of emergencies, and Student Centered
Funding Formula (SCFF) “hold-harmless” funding has already
been guaranteed through 2021-22.
The Chancellor’s Office began releasing guidance memos on March
20 that provide additional information as it becomes
available. Our Union Toolkit
contains summary updates. Also
watch the Chancellor’s Office coronavirus page for more
updates sign up for email updates.
Our members include faculty who teach courses such as nursing,
welding and ceramics. These courses require clinical
rotations, labs, and workshops that cannot easily transition
online. Will I still be paid for the classes I was
scheduled to teach now, and what happens to these classes in the
future? What do I tell my students?
The chancellor has posted guidance memos following our questions
about nursing programs and “hard to convert” courses, which you
can find at the state Chancellor’s office website (cccco.edu) or
linked to on our CFT online toolkit –
Guidance – BRN Requirements for Nursing Clinical Hours.
Colleges are strongly encouraged to find ways to continue
offering coursework to support essential sectors like
nursing. Discussions are ongoing now between the
Chancellor’s office, the Governor, and the State Board of Nursing
about ways to meet clinical requirements in our state of
emergency. We may ask for your help to ensure that our
students are able to meet their requirements and assist on the
front lines fighting the pandemic.
The Chancellor also recommends temporarily suspending, but not
cancelling, other courses that cannot be transitioned
online. They are working to find online platforms that can
accommodate lab requirements. The chancellor has posted a
guidance memo for “hard-to-convert” classes. Here’s the link to
the memo in our Union Toolkit —
Preliminary Guidance for Hard-to-Convert Courses.
Because community colleges are able to maintain their funding for
the year under emergency provisions, there will be no loss in
revenue and they will remain able to pay all faculty and staff
for courses that are already underway.
With our support, many local unions have negotiated emergency
agreements that explicitly maintain pay for all faculty through
the end of the school year. Check with your local union to
see what terms they’ve negotiated for your college.
Are we going to allow students to repeat classes instead of
We don’t know yet, but the CFT agrees that would be a good idea
and has supported course repeatability in general.
Is there any info available for lecturers and librarians at UC?
visit the comprehensive toolkit prepared by UC-AFT for
helpful workplace information and updates.
How does this crisis affect our CalSTRS service credit?
There’s no adverse impact to a member’s service credit, as long
as the district continues to pay employees during school
closures. Generally speaking, leave that is paid should not have
an impact on service credit. Find more info in this CalSTRS
Circular in our Union Toolkit —
Effects of School Closures due to COVID-19.
How this will affect the benefits of already retired teachers?
Are teachers’ pensions at risk? And are they going to pay them
until the end of the year?
From CalSTRS: Due to the State of California’s
response to COVID-19, statements for direct deposit will not be
printed and mailed for March. Retirees and beneficiaries will
still receive their benefits via direct deposit. Members
receiving paper-only payments will continue to receive a check.
However, we ask you to consider opting into direct deposit for
Is the teacher retirement fund stable?
From CalSTRS: CalSTRS is a long-term investor,
and we think in terms of decades—not days, weeks or months. The
CalSTRS investment portfolio is broadly diversified in order to
respond to periods of market volatility and uncertainty. Our
members’ retirement benefits continue to be secure.