Tensions ramp up

Asaf Bar-Tura and daughter Alma, 7, a first grader, protest near the Albany Unified School District Student Enrollment Center in Albany on February, 10, 2021. Parents and students held the demonstration to call for the reopening of schools. Photo by Anda Chu, Bay Area News Group

Asaf Bar-Tura and daughter Alma, 7, protest near the Albany Unified School District Student Enrollment Center on Feb. 10, 2021. Photo by Anda Chu, Bay Area News Group

Top Democratic lawmakers dealt a political blow to Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday by unveiling a school reopening package without his input — a move to which the governor did not take kindly.

The bold step suggests that Newsom and lawmakers have significantly different interpretations of what’s necessary to get kids back in the classroom, especially when it comes to vaccines. The package introduced by three Democratic Assemblymembers would require local public health departments to offer vaccines to on-site school employees, while Newsom’s plan, introduced in December, maintains vaccinations aren’t a prerequisite to reopening.

Lawmakers are planning to vote on the bill on Monday — which could force Newsom to choose between abandoning his own proposal or potentially slowing reopenings by vetoing the bill, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.

  • Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, on the possibility of a joint deal“I don’t know — you’d have to talk to (Newsom). Our intention is to pass the bill on Monday.”
  • NewsomMy “plan is grounded in the same science that’s been recognized by the medical professionals at the (CDC), by … Dr. Fauci, and by the president himself. While the Legislature’s proposal represents a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough or fast enough.”

The lawmakers’ proposal largely preserves the funding structure of Newsom’s original plan: $2 billion for reopening costs and $4.6 billion for learning loss. It calls on school districts, once they enter the red tier, to offer some sort of in-person instruction to K-6 students and older vulnerable students by April 15. If they don’t, they won’t receive full funding. Newsom had wanted elementary schools to reopen by Feb. 16, a plan rebuffed by districts, unions and lawmakers.

Meanwhile, tensions over school closures continue to grow. After a profanity-laced video surfaced Wednesday of a Bay Area school board president saying parents “want to pick on us because they want their babysitters back,” enraged residents began circulating a petition calling on board members to resign. Students and families infuriated by the San Francisco school board delaying a reopening vote held a protest Thursday in which they logged into remote classes outside closed campuses. In Los Angeles, some families are boycotting online classes altogether.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,421,720 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 47,924 deaths (+0.9% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

CalMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics. 

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  • Tensions ramp up

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