Sen. Skinner Statement on $6.6 Billion Schools Reopening Plan
California state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, expressed her gratitude for the collaboration that resulted in the $6.6 billion plan to reopen California schools this Spring that was approved unanimously by the Budget committee today:
“We have two competing truths: Learning with teachers and friends in a classroom is better for most kids, yet in the midst of a pandemic, reopening schools increases the risk of exposure to COVID-19. So, details matter. It was important to do our best to land on a school reopening plan that truly prioritizes the safety of families, teachers, staff, and the community. Thankfully, AB 86 strikes that balance.”
Assembly Bill 86 provides $2 billion for schools to reopen within the next few weeks, along with another $4.6 billion for learning loss recovery grants. Under the provisions of the funding bill, school districts located in counties in the purple tier, where COVID-19 infection rates remain high, would reopen by April 1 for students in grades TK-2 and would follow strict testing and other safety protocols. In counties with lower COVID-19 infection rates, in the less restrictive red and other tiers, all elementary schools would reopen by April 1, along with one grade in middle or high school. These schools would still follow an agreed upon COVID Safety Plan, but with fewer restrictions than schools in the purple tier. The bill also allows for those school districts with previously established earlier reopening dates or that choose to reopen before the mandatory dates listed in the bill to proceed as planned without interference.
To help reduce COVID-19 outbreaks at school sites that could lead to community spread and to protect essential school teachers and staff, AB 86 ensures that 10% of the state’s vaccines supply is guaranteed for teachers, school staff, afterschool care staff, and childcare workers.
AB 86 also includes important investments in child care and temporary changes to student aid rules to ensure support to students who were unable to excel at distance learning and earned a low grade-point-average during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Although infection rates have declined substantially in recent weeks and the number of Californians getting vaccinated has — thankfully — increased, COVID-19 is still an ongoing threat within our communities. AB 86 was carefully crafted to assist our schools to reopen in a safe and careful manner,” added Skinner, who, as chair of the Senate Budget Committee, played a leadership role in negotiating the schools reopening plan.
The full Senate is scheduled to vote on AB 86 on Thursday, March 4.
Sen. Skinner represents the 9th Senate District, is chair of the Senate Budget Committee, and is vice chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.