April 13 | Los Angeles Times
The Los Angeles school district is set to unfold a gradual and partial reopening plan on Tuesday, one that was heavily influenced by teachers union demands that led to a delayed start date and limited live instructional time — and also by strict safety imperatives shared by both the district and union.
L.A. schools Supt. Austin Beutner has hailed the reopening as a nation-leading model for school safety that is sensitive to families in low-income communities hardest hit by illness and death during the pandemic. But the approach has also generated criticism from those who say the quantity and quality of instruction for 465,000 students have been sacrificed this year as a result of union concerns.
April 13 | Los Angeles Times
Like most Los Angeles Unified School District students returning to campus this month, kindergartner Cali Corbin will spend the bulk of her day in “supervised care and enrichment” — free school-site programming for the hours she’s not with her teacher.
For the vast majority of returning elementary schoolers, that means from the end of in-person instruction at 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. For a much smaller number, it may be from 8 a.m. until lunch. And for middle schoolers, it could be several full days a week, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
In all cases, supervised care, not instruction, will make up most of the school day. And for parents like Cali’s mom, Renee Bailey, those extra hours are essential.
April 11 | CalMatters
A comprehensive history of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on California would surely conclude that the state’s school children have been treated shamefully.
The incessant political squabbling over closing and reopening schools, and the sporadic efforts at in-home learning, have once again demonstrated that the supposed adults who manage and operate public education in California are more focused on their own interests than on the wellbeing of students.
April 8 | San Diego Union-Tribune
A lawsuit by three San Diego County charter school networks that said they were wrongfully denied state funding now represents all 308 of California’s charter schools that provide online, home school and other nontraditional learning.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge James Arguelles granted the plaintiffs in Reyes v. State of California class-action status in a recent court order. Attorneys for the charter school plaintiffs say this is the first class-action lawsuit involving charter schools in California’s history.
April 7 | EdSource
A Los Angeles parent group filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Los Angeles Unified School District and district Superintendent Austin Beutner, calling for a return to full-time, in-person instruction to the extent possible.
The group, California Students United, wants the school district to eliminate requirements that students stay 6 feet apart and that they be tested for Covid-19.
April 4 | Politico
California teachers are ready to go back to the classroom. But the state’s largest union has a new ask: free child care for their own kids.
The demand is salt in the wound for parents who struggled with distance learning at home amid intense reopening negotiations that have dragged on for a year.
As part of school reopening agreements in San Diego, Sacramento and San Jose, unions successfully fought for policies that allow employees to bring their children to the classroom as in-person instruction resumes.
April 2 | EdSource
California education officials have been told verbally that the state may not need to submit a waiver application to the U.S. Department of Education, thus opening the door for more flexibility this spring when it comes to standardized testing, as school districts continue to navigate reopening plans during the pandemic.
As vaccinations have ramped up and cases of Covid-19 have declined across the state, many California schools have started bringing back groups of students for in-person instruction. One part of the reopening puzzle recently has been how and when to administer statewide standardized tests, which in February the U.S. Department of Education said would be required.
March 29 | Los Angeles Times
Although Vicky Martinez has been dreaming of the day she can send her four children back to in-person instruction in the Los Angeles Unified School District, she thinks that, at least for now, she’s waiting.
But she has had second thoughts. And third thoughts. Her high school son wants to return. Her younger children are afraid of getting COVID-19.
“I am exhausted — physically, mentally, emotionally, financially — all of the above,” she said. “It has been a lot of work, and I feel like I’m failing every day as a parent.”
March 29 | Chalkbeat
States holding out hope that they can cancel standardized testing this year got more bad news Friday, as the Biden administration formally denied requests to do so from two states.
But the U.S. Department of Education approved Colorado’s request to effectively cut testing in half — offering a path for other states that want to reduce the burden of exams this year.
“The realities of the pandemic mean that there’s going to have to be flexibility,” Ian Rosenblum, acting assistant education secretary, said in an interview Friday. “At the same time, obtaining data on student learning includes high-quality statewide assessments, and that data is critically important from an educational equity perspective.”
March 26 | Mercury News
For the past year, Adrienne Rodriguez has watched with mounting worry as her first-grade daughter Hope stares at a computer screen at home, absorbing lessons from her public elementary school that amount to half the number of instruction hours that kids at nearby private schools have been getting in person since the fall.
And she’s hardly impressed by Gilroy Unified School District’s plans to welcome Hope and other students who want in-person learning back to the classroom. The district’s proposal won’t bring her daughter’s grade back to campus until April 15, and for less than three hours a day, four days a week.
March 25 | Press Enterprise
Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, plans to run for state Superintendent of Public Instruction — in 2026, after she seeks another term in the state Senate and campaigns for the current superintendent to win another term.
Leyva, who has been on the Senate’s education committee since she was first elected in 2014 and has chaired the committee the past three years, said she had no idea before running for Senate that she would develop such a passion for education.
March 23 | Los Angeles Times
When states shuttered public schools for in-person learning last March, almost no one imagined that some of them would remain closed for a full year or more. As time passed, concerns about a limited “learning loss” grew into worries about a “lost generation” of students. Projections of lost achievement were massive.
But when student performance data started trickling in during the fall, the results were not as terrible as many had envisioned. Yes, performance seemed to be dipping, especially for the most vulnerable, but the magnitude of the decline appeared smaller than the direst predictions.
March 21 | Los Angeles Times
Students in California are now allowed to sit three feet apart in classrooms — instead of four or six feet — in guidelines state officials issued over the weekend, a major change in policy that will exert pressure on local officials to consider a faster and more complete reopening of campuses that have been closed for over a year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local education leaders, however, will have the final say — and Los Angeles schools Supt. Austin Beutner said Sunday that the L.A. Unified School District would keep the six-foot rule.
March 17 | EdSource
California school officials scratching their heads over how to roll out standardized tests this spring could soon have another option.
On Tuesday, the State Board of Education voted unanimously to seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education that would allow California school districts to use locally selected tests rather than the Smarter Balanced statewide assessments, which are required by state and federal education law.
March 9 | Mercury News
A new study adds to the mounting evidence of lost learning due to school closures during the coronavirus pandemic, with the ability of students in early grades to read aloud quickly and accurately about 30 percent lower than normal over the past year.
The research released Tuesday by Policy Analysis for California Education, an independent research center based at Stanford University, examined 250,000 oral reading fluency scores for students in first through third grade last spring and fall in over 100 school districts across 22 states.
March 8 | New York Times
It has been almost a year since the coronavirus pandemic virtually emptied public schools in Los Angeles and sent Shamael Al-Alim home to take classes from her bedroom.
She does not miss rising at 6 a.m. to catch a bus and a train to her high school. But there is so much that, at 17, she does miss: The prospect of an in-person prom and graduation. The history teacher who ran the social justice club. Pickup basketball in the gym after school — and the coach “who made everybody feel safe there.” A real senior year.
March 1 | EdSource
Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature have struck a deal to accelerate the reopening of school campuses by moving up the deadline to send the youngest students back to class in March. They also are adding $2 billion in incentives and removing obstacles that districts had complained were standing in their way.
Newsom, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, and Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, announced the framework on Monday. It provides some of the key elements that Newsom had been pressing for during more than a month of protracted negotiations.
March 1 | Politico
California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers struck a deal Sunday that would push school districts to open classrooms to the youngest students by the end of March while stopping short of new requirements regarding vaccines and collective bargaining.
The deal more closely aligns with what the governor originally proposed in December than what Democratic lawmakers detailed in a bill in February. It does not require schools to open but instead offers financial incentives for those that do, according to sources close to the deal who asked not to be named because it had not yet been made public.
February 25 | LA Times
Despite deep concerns over elevating student stress just as children are returning to school, standardized testing will take place this spring for about 4.3 million California students.
With limited options, the state Board of Education voted against pursuing a blanket waiver from the federal government to suspend mandated standardized testing after the Biden administration released guidance this week that encouraged states to move forward with testing — but come up with ways to ease the process.
February 24 | EdSource
The State Board of Education in California voted unanimously to prepare to apply for more flexible standardized testing options this year as nearly 80% of students across the state continue with distance learning.
States are required to conduct standardized tests every year in math, English language arts and science, according to both state laws and the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. When schools shut their buildings in March last year due to the pandemic, however, state officials said districts did not have to administer the tests, pending getting a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education under then-Secretary Betsy DeVos. The department quickly granted waivers to all states relieving them of their testing obligations.
February 23 | Education Trust
“We are pleased to see that the U.S. Department of Education will not consider blanket waivers of the critical civil rights component of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that requires high quality, statewide assessments. We recognize the many challenges that states continue to face as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including managing a mix of in-person and remote instruction and the logistical challenges of administering annual statewide assessments. Students of color, Native students, English learners, immigrant students, students with disabilities, students from low-income families, students experiencing homelessness, and other historically underserved students have faced and will continue to experience unique challenges that impede their learning during the pandemic. Data on multiple measures, including school climate, student access to resources and opportunities, and student learning outcomes, are essential tools to address systemic inequities in our education system, as well as to gauge the quality of instruction and support offered under COVID-19 restrictions. Transparent, actionable measures of the experiences of different groups of students can empower families and advocates; guide state and local resource allocation, interventions, and supports; and identify equity gaps that require federal investment, policy, and guidance. Parents and families deserve to know whether their children are meeting college- and career-ready expectations and whether the education system is responding to and improving their opportunities to succeed.
February 17 | Los Angeles Times
By Editorial Board
Schools have been reopening across the country for months now, illustrating that students can return to classrooms with little risk if the proper precautions have been taken. This is especially true of elementary schools, as younger children have been far less likely to be sickened with COVID-19 or to infect others. Reopened schools have not caused infections to surge in outlying communities.
Yet Los Angeles Unified schools — along with many other public schools statewide — have remained closed. Supt. Austin Beutner, who has been struggling with a teachers union unwilling to send educators back into classrooms, couldn’t have opened the schools anyway because the county’s infection rate was too high to meet the state’s stringent standards. But this week, that rate fell to the point where it is officially safe for all elementary schools in the county to open.
February 11 | Los Angeles Times
South Whittier schools Supt. Gary Gonzales works seven days a week to move his elementary schools closer to reopening. But the barriers are significant: He’s looking for ways to get vaccines to teachers, negotiating with the union and closely monitoring coronavirus case numbers that show that the virus is still ravaging his community, even as case numbers fall countywide.
Gonzales knows his district’s students, almost all of whom are Latinos from low-income families, are struggling under remote learning. And he knows his community is hurting — the pandemic has claimed 118 lives in tiny South Whittier. A date for bringing students back to the classroom is unclear.
February 2 | Pasadena Now
State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has introduced legislation that would require elementary schools to screen students for dyslexia.
Senate Bill 237 would require the state Board of Education, beginning in the 2022-23 school year, to provide dyslexia screening instruments to schools that would be used annually in order to identify students who are at risk for dyslexia. The measure is aimed at improving test scores and graduation rates, while also helping to destigmatize reading troubles experienced by children.
February 1 | Hechinger Report
As if the pandemic weren’t enough, we’re about to be hit with another tsunami, one not likely to be fought with a vaccine. Thousands of our nation’s students aren’t learning to read, and the patchwork of instructional programs, limited resources and frequent change from hybrid to virtual schooling surely is contributing to the problem.
Pre-pandemic, we weren’t doing all that well in teaching our children to read. Scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress stagnated, with children lacking even basic proficiency by the end of third grade. Around one-third of our nation’s fourth graders were scoring below basic on standardized tests, a staggering statistic that isn’t even newsworthy anymore.
January 28 | Politico
A frustrated Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday said school administrators and teachers unions should agree as soon as possible to reopen schools for younger students — or else be clear with families that they will not return to classrooms at all this academic year.
Newsom was responding to growing demands that all teachers receive vaccines first, but also a long list of conditions that go beyond what the governor has proposed as safe to reopen schools that have been shut for nearly a year. The vast majority of California's 6 million public schoolchildren haven't been on campuses since March.
January 22 | Senate Press Release
Today State Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – La Cañada Flintridge) introduced SB 237, a measure which would require elementary schools to screen students for dyslexia.
“Sadly, students with dyslexia far too often go unidentified, untreated and their trouble with reading negatively impacts them throughout their life,” stated Senator Portantino. “While some dyslexics overcome their challenges, far too many bright students have lower graduation rates, are less likely to attend college, and go on to have a much higher incarceration rates than those who do not have it. By accurately screening students at risk for dyslexia early in their school experience, we can help them succeed.”
January 8 | Sacramento Bee
By Adam Ashton
California has so much money it might have to give some back to taxpayers.
The state is on pace to hit a spending cap voters adopted in 1979 when state politics were dominated by a taxpayer revolt, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday as he unveiled his $227 billion 2021-22 spending plan.
January 6 | CalMatters
By Bill Lucia
The Legislative Analyst Office recently reported a $26 billion windfall. And, some are suggesting California should restore across-the-board cuts. But politicians must recognize solutions embedded in the June budget did not embody shared sacrifice – kids and teachers took a disproportionate hit.
June revenues were deliberately pessimistic. As a result, the Legislature could low-ball the Proposition 98 minimum school funding guarantee. In addition, the state relied heavily on payment deferrals to schools to close the budget gap. $12.5 billion in IOUs were established requiring schools to wait until next year to get paid what they are owed today.
December 22 | New York Times
By Erica L. Green and Eliza Shapiro
In August, Connecticut’s schools chief, Miguel A. Cardona, logged on to a virtual meeting of New Haven’s school board, ostensibly to hear why its members had decided not to open the state’s largest school district for in-person classes this fall.
Most of the district’s students had not fully participated in remote learning, he said. Its most vulnerable populations had the most to lose by not returning to school buildings, and the district had met public health metrics for reopening. But although Dr. Cardona later suggested the board reconsider, he declined to overrule it.
“All of you, whether you have a very strong position on one end or the other, are here because you care about the success of children and the community,” he concluded.
December 1 | Los Angeles Times
By Nina Agrawal
The state of California has failed during the COVID-19 pandemic to provide a free and equal education to all students, violating the state Constitution and discriminating against Black, Latino and low-income families, according to a lawsuit filed Monday.
These children have been left behind during months of distance learning, lacking access to digital tools as well as badly needed academic and social-emotional supports, according to the lawsuit filed by the Public Counsel on behalf of California students, parents and several community organizations.
November 16 | EdSource
By Louis Freedberg and Ali Tadayon
Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “sounding of the alarm” to beat back the surge of the Covid-19 virus represents a severe setback for efforts to further reopen schools in California, as millions more students now attend schools in counties barred from offering face-to-face instruction in regular classes.
On Monday, Newsom applied what he called an “emergency brake” on reopening schools and businesses in almost every part of the state, based on coronavirus rules announced months ago. Of the state’s 58 counties, 41 counties are now on the Tier One purple list, the most restrictive of the state’s coronavirus monitoring list.
November 15 | San Diego Union-Tribune
By Kristen Taketa
San Diego Unified is proposing adding dozens of standards for new and expanding charter schools after a new state law gives districts more leeway to deny charters.
Under the proposed criteria, San Diego Unified would consider the potential financial and enrollment impact of a new or expanding charter school on the district.
Before the law change, the district could not consider those factors.
November 13 | Daily News
By Linh Tat
The Los Angeles Unified School District and Associated Administrators of Los Angeles have reached an agreement regarding how to bring students and staff back to campus for in-person instruction, one of several agreements the district has been negotiating with its employee groups.
Although district officials have said they hope to see a general reopening of schools in January if possible, no plans have been firmed up, as the district continues to negotiate with the teachers union and other employee groups, and as they continue to monitor the current spike in coronavirus cases.
November 11 | The 74
By Katie Silberstein and Marguerite Roza
Under California’s Local Control Funding Formula, the San Diego Unified School District’s highest-needs schools generated $1,468 more per student in 2016-17 than the average amount generated across all district schools. Yet, according to our new study, once that money passed through the district, those same neediest schools wound up receiving $127 less per student than the district’s average school. In fact, 12 of the 14 California districts we studied passed along a smaller share of formula-generated dollars to the schools with the highest-needs students.
November 9 | EdSource
By Sydney Johnson
High school students planning to apply to the University of California now have a broader set of courses they can take to meet the math requirement for admission to the public university system.
As more high schools across California have developed and adopted new college-prep math courses, math education and equity advocates have urged the state’s public universities to allow these courses to count toward admission requirements.
Under the new rules adopted in October, students in 11th and 12th grade can take data science, computer science, statistics and other approved quantitative reasoning courses to satisfy the required third year or recommended fourth year of math needed to be eligible for UC.
November 4 | Los Angeles Times
By Howard Blume
The titans of Los Angeles school politics — charter-school advocates and the teachers union — have fought to an expensive draw in Tuesday’s school board races, with a winner expected from each side and a board majority that could tilt in favor of charters.
In District 3, which covers most of the western San Fernando Valley, union-backed incumbent Scott Schmerelson led charter-backed Marilyn Koziatek by 54% to 46% of votes cast Wednesday evening. In District 7, which stretches from South L.A. to the Harbor area, charter-backed Tanya Ortiz Franklin was in front of union-backed Patricia Castellanos by a tally of 58% to 42%.
November 4 | EdSource
By Sydney Johnson
Teachers, administrators and parents wondering about the status of California’s annual standardized tests can expect to get clarity this week.
On Thursday, the State Board of Education will vote on whether to revise and shorten the state’s annual standardized Smarter Balanced tests in math and English language arts.
“We want to ensure we are providing flexibility and options to districts in an ever-evolving environment right now,” said Rachael Maves, deputy superintendent of instruction and measurement for the California Department of Education. “We are coming off a year of very little data, and I feel hopeful that we are starting down the path of collecting some.”
October 31 | Hechinger Report
By Tara Garcia Mathewson
At Ronald D. O’Neal Elementary School, in Elgin, Illinois, none of the third graders could read and write at grade level according to state tests in 2019. Nearly 90 percent of the school population is considered low-income and nearly three-quarters are labeled English learners, meaning that the state language arts test assesses their reading and writing ability in a language they’re still trying to learn.
Just nine miles away sits Centennial Elementary School, where 73 percent of third graders met grade-level standards on that same test. A fifth of Centennial’s student body is considered low-income, and 17 percent get extra supports as they learn English.
October 30 | EdSource
By Howard Blume
Grades of D and F have increased in the Los Angeles Unified School District among middle and high school students in a troubling sign of the toll that distance learning — and the coronavirus crisis — is taking on the children, especially those who are members of low-income families.
The district released a chart Monday indicating that based on 10-week interim assessments, failing grades are increasing across the board, but are surging the most in lower-income communities. Compounding the disturbing trend, students in these same communities, hard hit by the spread of COVID-19, have the lowest attendance.
October 30 | EdSource
By Yuxuan Xie
The above map gives a broad indication of the kind of instruction offered by all or most public school districts in a particular county — whether via in-person or distance learning, or a mixture of the two. It does not include private, parochial or charter schools, or special education or other small group classes for students with special needs that districts are offering through the state’s “small cohort” guidance. “In-person instruction” refers to counties where most or all districts offer some form of in-person instruction in regular classes, or plan to offer such instruction in November, often in hybrid formats, to some or all grades, and to those students who wish to participate. It is based on information from county offices of education from Oct. 22-29, supplemented by EdSource research.
October 29 | Legislative Analysts Office
This post begins by covering the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee and overall Proposition 98 spending, then covers spending for K-12 education. The EdBudget part of our website contains dozens of tables providing more detail about the 2020‑21 education budget package.
October 28 | USA Today
By Erin Richards
American high schoolers are approaching graduation with less of a grasp on reading and still-low math scores – and that's before factoring in the pandemic.
The average reading score for high school seniors dropped between 2015 and 2019, while math scores for those soon-to-be-graduates remained flat, according to the latest round of national test results released Wednesday.
And just as in many other aspects of American society, the divide between the academic haves and have-nots keeps growing. The most-proficient 12th graders – those with scores at the top of their class – are scoring better in reading than they did nearly 30 years ago. The least-proficient 12th grade readers are even further behind than they were in 1992, with scores that declined in that time period.
October 22 | Los Angeles Times
By Howard Blume and Laura Newberry
In a significant move to bring more students back to campus, Los Angeles County schools will be permitted to bring 25% of their students back to campus at a time, provided that they need special services best offered in person.
Students receiving priority would include those learning English and those with disabilities.
The action announced Wednesday by Supervisor Kathryn Barger comes in response to pressure to allow more students on campus and reports that schools elsewhere have reopened with relative safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
October 14 | Sacramento Bee
By Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks and Sawsan Morrar
Marcheri Smith hovers behind her son Tulley as he strains to hear his teacher’s instructions on Zoom and worries, like many parents at Sacramento City Unified schools, whether her son is falling behind.
With spotty internet, tight budgets, glitchy devices and piling responsibilities, Smith’s family is just trying to make it through each day.
“I don’t sleep at all,” she said.
September 16 | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
The first significant change to the state’s 7-year-old K-12 funding system, the Local Control Funding Formula, is a signature away from becoming law.
But if Gov. Gavin Newsom accepts the recommendation of his advisers at the California Department of Finance and ignores the Legislature’s near-unanimous vote favoring the significant reform, he’ll veto the legislation within the next few weeks. Hundreds of nonprofits and civil rights groups signed a letter last week urging him not to do that; signing it instead would ensure that funding for “our highest-need, most vulnerable students is actually directed to support them,” the letter said.
September 7 | Sacramento Bee
By Sawsan Morrar
Tens of thousands of families in Sacramento are dealing with a new layer of uncertainty one day before Sacramento City Unified schools are set to begin their first full days of online instruction.
The district delivered a cease and desist letter to the Sacramento City Teachers Association calling on the union to use the district’s distance learning schedule. But some teachers on Monday said they instead plan to move forward with schedules they collectively created together as a union and are different than the district’s plan.
September 5 | LA Times
By Howard Blume
Citing safety concerns, the leader of the Los Angeles teachers union said Friday it opposes reopening campuses for small in-person classes or one-on-one services for students who are disabled or learning English — even though county health officials have cleared the way to do so.
Some outside advocacy groups pushed back against the union’s position and the unwillingness of the L.A. Unified School District to address the issue directly and publicly.
August 27 | OC Register
By Editorial Staff
After Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 98, a budget trailer bill that froze this year’s school funding based on last year’s average daily attendance, a group of charter schools and their students filed a lawsuit charging that the state was violating the students’ constitutional right to an education and threatening the financial viability of their schools.
The annual guaranteed per-pupil funding under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula is approximately $10,000, but the lawmakers’ decision to hold school districts “harmless” for lost enrollment in the pandemic chaos meant that students at schools with declining enrollment would share in the extra funding for students who were no longer there, while schools with increasing enrollment would have to get by with less than the annual per-pupil guarantee.
August 22 | Sacramento Observer
By Observer Staff
At the tender age of 5, Samaiya Atkins and her father Marcus Atkins have high hopes and dreams for a high-quality, public education. When Mr. Atkins realized his daughter could get that level of rigor at a new school with an established reputation for developing high-performing scholars just a few blocks away from their home in the Meadowview community of Sacramento, he was ecstatic and quickly signed Samaiya up for Tecoy Porter College Prep.
Meadowview is the community where Stephon Clark, an unarmed Black man was shot and killed by the Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard giving rise to local and national protests. Fostering hope out of tragedy, Black community leaders built Tecoy Porter College Prep, a new college-prep charter school for students grades K-5 — just yards away from where Clark was killed — and named the playground in his memory at a groundbreaking on February 4, 2020 with his family. “I want them to know Stephon is a part of Sacramento history,” said his brother, Stevante Clark. “The remembrance of Stephon is what we want the kids to keep in their hearts and in their minds.”
August 12 | LA Times
By Howard Blume
With families anxious about the quality of online learning, the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday unanimously approved a plan that will restore structure to the academic schedule while also allowing for an online school day that is shorter than the traditional one.
The plan leaves some parents and advocates in the nation’s second-largest school system wanting more teaching hours. There also are parents who want fewer mandatory screen-time hours for their young children — a reflection of the complexities of distance learning and the widespread parent angst over the start of the school year next week at home, online.
August 6 | APM
By Emily Hanford
Sonya Thomas knew something wasn’t right with her son C.J. He was in first grade and he was struggling with reading. “Something was going on with him, but I could not figure it out,” she said.
Teachers and school officials told her that C.J. was behind but would catch up. They told Sonya to read to him at home. But she did read to him. C.J. liked the Veggie Tales stories and “The Big Friendly Giant” by Roald Dahl. His older sister read the Goosebumps books to him.
August 6 | CalMatters
By Dan Walters
The huge Los Angeles Unified School District is ground zero in California’s perpetual political war over educating millions of children on the short end of the state’s chronic “achievement gap.”
LA Unified, the nation’s second largest school system, has nearly 10% of the state’s 6 million public school students, the vast majority of whom are considered to be “at risk” due to poverty, lack of English language skills or foster child status.
July 30 | LA Times
By Howard Blume
With the Aug. 18 start of the school year fast approaching, parents and students face uncertainty over how online instruction will be conducted as the Los Angeles teachers union and district officials haggle over the rules and schedules for distance learning.
The union, United Teachers Los Angeles, opposes a proposal under which teachers would have to instruct students remotely while working an 8:30 a.m.-to-3 p.m. schedule that would closely mirror a traditional school day. The union has countered with a shorter work day structured somewhat differently.
July 29 | CalMatters
By Dan Walters
The pandemic-truncated 2020 legislative session, which resumed this week, has no shortage of business to conduct and just a month to do it — unless Gov. Gavin Newsom grants an extension.
Legislative leaders have imposed a tightly restricted schedule of committee hearings, with very limited public input, and asked their members to drop non-essential bills. In other words, they should be doing only what needs to be done and setting aside everything else.
Senate Bill 614 would be a good candidate for deferral, since it proposes to jettison California’s quarter century-old method of testing the readiness of prospective teachers to develop students’ reading skills, and is vague on what, if anything, would replace it.
July 29 | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
Four growing charter school organizations are suing Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond and the California Department of Education, charging that the state’s formula for funding K-12 schools during the pandemic will illegally deny payments for additional students in their schools.
Their schools are being underfunded by millions of dollars and their students’ constitutional rights are being violated, the lawsuit claims.
July 22 | Mercury News
By John Woolfolk
Now that the great summer debate has been settled and most California schools will be teaching online instead of opening their classrooms for the fast-approaching school year, parents like Martin Rauchwerk have one request: Reassure us online instruction will be better this time around.
“I forgave them for the spring,” said Rauchwerk, whose younger son will be a junior at San Jose’s Leland High School, “but I’m not going to forgive them for the fall.”
State and local officials say online schooling will look a lot different than in the spring. Districts say they’ll make sure students have computers and check in daily. Those students will also follow a regular bell schedule and be graded, unlike when schools were thrown into chaos after the coronavirus pandemic abruptly shuttered classrooms in March.
July 17 | Los Angeles Times
By John Meyers and Sonali Kohli
Most California public and private school campuses will not reopen when the academic year begins under statewide rules announced Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom, shifting instead toward full-time distance learning in response to the summer surge in coronavirus cases.
Schools will remain closed in 32 counties on the state’s COVID-19 monitoring list. Public health conditions in those communities led state officials last week to require a variety of facilities to close, including gyms, shopping malls, hair and nail salons and places of worship. The counties are home to 35.5 million Californians.
July 16 | Los Angeles Times
By Howard Blume and Paloma Esquivel
More than 50,000 Black and Latino middle and high school students in Los Angeles did not regularly participate in the school system’s main platform for virtual classrooms after campuses closed in March, a reflection of the deep disparities faced by students of color amid the COVID-19 pandemic and of the difficulties ahead as L.A. Unified prepares for continued online learning.
The numbers, reflected in a first-of-its-kind report by Los Angeles Unified School District analysts examining student engagement during campus closures, paint a stark picture of students in the nation’s second largest school district struggling under the new pressures of online learning.
July 3 | Sacramento Bee
By Mackenzie Hawkins
School funding in California has long adhered to the guiding principle that the money follows the student.
But under this year’s education budget, lawmakers and education advocates warn, the state will abandon its traditional allocation formula in favor of a system that harms the very schools — disproportionately, charter schools and personalized education programs — that have performed best under pandemic pressures.
California’s public schools usually receive money based on a combination of the prior year’s funding and the current year’s average daily attendance — a metric that reflects not the number of students enrolled, but rather how many students show up each day.
July 2 | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
In negotiations with school districts around the state, the California Teachers Association has argued, with some success, that school districts lack the authority to force teachers to do live online instruction or to record lessons for later use. Some districts have accepted that assertion.
But some attorneys for school districts are challenging the CTA’s position. They point out that the Legislature encourages distance learning in legislation that accompanied the state budget Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law last week.
July 2 | CalMatters
By Dan Walters
During his second governorship, journalists occasionally would ask Jerry Brown what he was doing about California’s highest-in-the-nation poverty rate.
Brown would tick off several actions, his centerpiece being the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which provides school districts with billions of extra dollars to upgrade the schooling of “at-risk” students, those from impoverished homes and/or English-learners.
He was right to do so — on paper. Closing the “achievement gap” that separates those students, mostly Black and Latino, from more privileged kids would be the single most effective way of also closing the income gap by equipping them with skills for well-paying employment and/or higher education.
July 2 | EdSource
By Diana Lambert
California’s smallest school districts face big hurdles in planning for next school year. Some small districts don’t have enough computers or reliable internet service in their communities to provide distance learning to all their students and many don’t have enough money to reopen campuses without difficulty, according to a survey of 185 superintendents.
The Small School Districts’ Association surveyed superintendents of school districts with fewer than 2,500 students to learn how successful they were at implementing distance learning after schools closed in March because of the coronavirus pandemic. They also wanted to determine the problems each would have in reopening schools.
July 1 | CalMatters
By Ricardo Cano
California’s new budget provides enough funding for schools to pivot to hybrid learning when they reopen this fall. But school officials fear Sacramento’s decision to delay cuts could throw districts into the fiscal abyss later.
The $202 billion budget Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law Monday largely keeps intact funding for California’s public schools, capping a turbulent couple months of budget negotiations.
July 1 | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
Prevailing in negotiations with Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Legislature passed a state budget that will let K-12 schools spend at the same level in 2020-21 as this year — avoiding the billions in cuts that Newsom had proposed.
But there’s a catch. Spending won’t equate to funding. School and community college districts will have to front $11 billion they would normally get from the state in exchange for IOUs. Districts won’t be paid back until 2021-22.
Deferrals, as the late payments are called, may sound familiar. They also were the Legislature’s go-to strategy during the Great Recession.
June 30 | NPR
By Nina Totenberg and Brian Naylor
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Montana's exclusion of religious schools from a state scholarship program funded by tax credits violates the Constitution.
The 5-4 decision, in which Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's other conservatives, is a victory for parents who wanted to use the state tax credit to help send children to religious schools.
The decision is also a victory for conservative religious groups and advocates of school choice who challenged Montana's "no-aid" provision in the state constitution.
June 25 | EdSource
By Howard Blume and Paloma Esquival
When it comes to education, the new state budget goes beyond providing $70.5 billion in funding for K-12 schools — it sets fundamental accountability rules for a new era of distance learning in California by requiring teachers to take online attendance and document student learning.
The budget bill, which Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign, anticipates that schools will continue to rely heavily on online instruction when campuses reopen in the fall. It also implicitly acknowledges the deep learning losses of the last semester, especially among students from low-income families, when school systems struggled to get all students online.
The new directives establish minimum teaching parameters for distance learning while protecting teachers against immediate layoffs.
June 25 | EdSource
By John Fensterwald
Advocates and lobbyists for California’s K-12 school districts are expressing both relief and apprehension on the eve of the Legislature’s expected approval Friday of a 2020-21 state budget.
To a person, they say they appreciate the compromise that Gov. Gavin Newsom reached with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood; and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. The deal will raise spending to the current year’s level by restoring billions of dollars in cuts Newsom had proposed and will add more federal aid dollars to cope with the coronavirus epidemic.
June 25 | EdSource
By Sydney Johnson
California schools will need to offer daily live instruction and regular communication with parents, among other requirements, in order to receive state funding for the upcoming school year.
In March, schools across California closed their campuses to prevent the spread of Covid-19, causing districts to rush to put together distance learning plans, ranging from online group projects to virtual lectures to paper-pencil packets. With little warning, many teachers struggled to reach all of their students, raising concerns about how low-income students, English learners and other students with high needs are falling behind their peers with more resources at home to continue learning.