By Thomas Catenacci
The Los Angeles teachers union said Monday California’s school reopening plan is a “recipe” for propagating racism and will unfairly punish minority communities.
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) representatives argued that teachers are being asked to make up for the leadership failings of elected officials “from Washington DC to Sacramento to LA” during a press conference Monday. Since California’s plan calls on schools in communities with low infection rates to reopen, the union said reopening funding will only go to white communities since they have less transmission.
“If you condition funding on the reopening of schools, that money will only go to white and wealthier and healthier school communities that do not have the transmission rates that low-income Black and Brown communities do,” UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a statement. “This is a recipe for propagating structural racism and it is deeply unfair to the students we serve.
For California public school districts to receive funding, they must reopen K-2 and high needs in-person instruction by April 1, according to the state’s $6.6 billion school reopening package Democratic state officials released Monday. Districts in a red tier or better, meaning they are located in a community with low virus transmission, must reopen all elementary grades and at least one middle or high school grade.
Districts will forfeit 1% of their allotted funding every additional day after April 1 in which they violate the state’s in-person instruction guidelines.
The package provides $2 billion for personal protective equipment, ventilation and testing, and $4.6 billion for expanded summer school, tutoring and mental health services. It also gives teachers priority access to the state’s coronavirus vaccine supply.
“Since the height of the winter surge, we have successfully shifted the conversation from whether to reopen schools to when,” Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement on Monday. “Now, our collective charge is to build on that momentum and local leadership, and – just as critically – do whatever it takes to meet the mental health and academic needs of our students, including over the summer.”
But UTLA condemned Newsom’s plan Monday, saying it pressures teachers to return to schools “under unsafe conditions.” The teachers union said it would only agree to a reopening when Los Angeles County is out of the purple tier, all school staff are fully vaccinated or given access to a vaccine and safety measures have been implemented.
“We know this is a difficult time of suffering for so many families who do not feel like their voices have been heard,” Myart-Cruz said. “We are working hard on behalf of them, our students and their families.”
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