Governor Gavin Newsom signed a $6.6 billion package to accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction across California and empower schools to immediately expand academic mental health, and social-emotional supports, including over the summer. The package was passed by the Legislature with overwhelming, bipartisan support after it was announced earlier this week.
“This package of funding and supports for our schools recognizes that in-person education is essential to meet not only the learning needs but the mental health and social-emotional needs of our kids – especially the youngest and the most vulnerable,” said Governor Newsom. “The state is committed to creating safe learning environments for students and safe workplaces for educators as we build on months of progress to accelerate the pace of school reopenings across California.”
The Governor signed AB 86 in a virtual ceremony joined by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Board of Education President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Senators Nancy Skinner, John Laird, and Connie Leyva and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and Kevin McCarty.
Under AB 86, public schools throughout the state will be allocated $6.6 billion in total – $2 billion will fund safety measures to support in-person instruction, such as personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades, and COVID-19 testing, while $4.6 billion will fund expanded learning opportunities such as summer school, tutoring, and mental health services. Together, the funds empower schools to develop and execute comprehensive strategies to both reopen and expand programs to address the social-emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students.
All public schools are required to offer in-person instruction to grades K-2 for all students and high-needs students in all grades by the end of the month, losing 1 percent of eligible funds every day thereafter if they do not. Schools in the state’s Red Tier or better are required to offer in-person instruction to all students in all elementary grades and at least one middle or high school grade, or risk the same penalty. Together, these requirements help ensure schools begin to reopen as soon as possible, to build trust and confidence to continue phased reopenings.
To meet the needs of the whole child, the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants allocate $4.6 billion to local educational agencies based on the equity-based Local Control Funding Formula, with an additional $1,000 for each homeless student. These funds will be used for supplemental instruction and support for social and emotional well-being. Schools will be able to use the funds for providing more instructional time, such as summer school, and accelerating progress to close learning gaps through tutoring, learning recovery programs, mental health services, access to school meal programs, programs to address pupil trauma and social-emotional learning, support for credit-deficient students and more.
The package also codifies multiple successful state programs to support safe school reopenings:
- Vaccine Prioritization for K-12 School Staff. The package codifies the Governor’s commitment to set aside 10 percent of vaccines for education workers. This commitment ensures that the state prioritization of school staff, in place since January, is made real in all 58 counties. Since the Governor’s announcement, the state has collaborated with county health departments, the Biden Administration, and providers such as Kaiser Permanente to accelerate vaccine access for K-12 school staff starting March 1.
- Data Reporting. The package codifies data reporting requirements, including requirements for schools to report reopening status and COVID-19 safety measures. These statutory requirements will help build on efforts to increase transparency, including interactive geospatial maps displayed on the Safe Schools Hub.
- State Safe Schools Team. The package also allocates $25 million to the State Safe Schools Team, which serves to provide technical assistance, oversight, and accountability to the over 10,000 public schools in the state. The capacity will enhance the Team’s reach, and the Team will conduct a safety review of any school with two or more COVID-19 outbreaks.
The budget package is the result of months of work by the Governor’s Office, Senate, and Assembly. The state’s work to accelerate safe school reopenings to date has included securing federal approval to use Medicaid funding for voluntary COVID-19 testing in schools, delivering three months of PPE and safety supplies to all schools at no cost, and providing direct support to over 1,000 schools in 41 counties to implement COVID-19 testing and direct technical assistance to over 300 school districts.