California · Education

Skepticism reigns as Calif. lawmakers approve $6.6bil school reopening plan

California lawmakers on Thursday approved a $6.6 billion plan aimed at pressuring school districts to return students to the classroom before the end of the school year.

The bill does not order school districts to resume in-person instruction and it does not say parents must send their kids back to the classroom if they don’t want to.

Instead, the state will dangle $2 billion before cash-strapped school boards, offering them a share of that money only if they offer in-person instruction by the end of the month.

School districts have until May 15 to decide. Districts that resume in-person learning after that date won’t get any of that money.

California Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk (R–Santa Clarita) summated the view of Republicans and a growing number of parents scattered throughout the state during floor debate on Thursday.

“The truth is AB 86 doesn’t do anything to reopen our schools,” Wilk said. “I believe with or without this bill school districts that want to reopen will and school districts that don’t want to, won’t.”

Still, the GOP Leader reluctantly joined 35 other Senators to unanimously approve the bill.

Other Republicans, like Sen. Andreas Borgeas (R–Fresno) expressed moderate relief that some action was being undertaken to get children back in classrooms.

“On behalf of my wife and I, I’m just so thankful this bill’s moving forward,” Borgeas, a father of two school-aged kids, said.

Meanwhile, Assembly Republicans expressed far more skepticism – and opposition – to the bill.

In sum, four Republicans – Asms. Frank Bigelow (R–O’Neals), Vince Fong (R–Bakersfield), James Gallagher (R–Nicolaus), and Kevin Kiley (R–Rocklin) – rejected the school reopening measure.

Fong succinctly wrapped up his opposition during Assembly debate on the bill Thursday morning.

“To the parents, students and teachers who want to be back in school right now – this bill doesn’t do that,” he said.

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Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.