California solidifies school reopening plan
Efforts to reopen schools will be further boosted by the signing of the American Rescue Plan
students with mask sit at attention in class
Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 5 signed Assembly Bill 86, also known as the school reopening bill, to incentivize the resumption of on-campus instruction by April 1. AB 86 melded elements of the Governor’s Safe Schools for All Plan and the Legislature’s Safe and Open Schools Act with new components that respond to concerns raised by CSBA and others.

Those concerns were discussed by board members, superintendents and CSBA staff in a March 9 webinar separating fact from fiction in the details of the bill and highlighting the efforts that were underway to reopen campuses well before the Governor signed AB 86. Participants also considered the benefits of the legislation, new hurdles it creates and issues it fails to address.

In addition to discussing the pros and cons of the bill, LEA panelists shared their experiences over the last year, illustrating the different challenges that they face based on factors including size, region and the demographics of their student bodies, as well as the flexibility needed to address those issues. Panelists answered several pressing questions about AB 86 during the webinar: Does it present unintended consequences?

Does it adequately address key issues related to COVID-19? Will it be a catalyst to get more students back in the classroom?

Governance teams and other education leaders have been working diligently throughout the pandemic to ensure children are safe, fed and continuing to learn despite these challenging circumstances, CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy said. “Despite what the members of the Legislature and others may think, many of our schools have been open and doing in-person instruction throughout the state,” Billy told attendees. “There are a lot of unsung heroes and it’s important to acknowledge those who have been doing the hard work of adapting to the changing healthcare guidance over the last few months and doing their best to ensure students are provided an education.”

There are some silver linings in the legislation, Dennis Meyers, Assistant Executive Director of CSBA’s Governmental Relations department, noted. “One of the things that we were able to secure is the grandfathering in of existing reopening plans,” he said. Other CSBA advocacy wins include language that allows for the expenditure of funds prior to resuming on-campus instruction so schools can more effectively prepare for the return of students; educator vaccination provisions have been expanded from teachers only to include all school staff working with students; and language on the set aside for paraprofessionals has been clarified to reinforce that paraprofessionals would be offering supplemental instruction and support.

Significant issues remain, however, including a mandate that school districts and county offices of education spend 10 percent of the funds received under the Expanded Learning Opportunities program to hire paraprofessionals regardless of whether a local educational agency needs the positions, can find qualified candidates in their area to hire or views such an expenditure as the best way of supporting students. Additionally, the bill does not provide a minimum funding level for small districts or address the exposure schools face due to the fact that most insurers are not covering COVID-19 liability, Meyers said.

Biden signs stimulus, committing $128 billion for K-12 education
President Joe Biden on March 11 signed a historic $1.9 trillion relief package H.R.1319, known as the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, that includes $128 billion for K-12 education, $7 billion for an Emergency Connectivity Fund and $350 billion for state governments to fill their budget gaps.
A recording of CSBA’s webinar — “The School Reopening Bill (AB 86): Separating Fact from Fiction” — is available here:

Panelists answered several pressing questions during the webinar: Does it present unintended consequences? Does it adequately address key issues related to COVID-19? Will it be a catalyst to get more students back in the classroom?

Find a breakdown of the key components of Assembly Bill 86 here:

Read CSBA CEO & Executive Director Vernon M. Billy’s statement on the school reopening bill:

California’s share of education funding ( is just over $15 billion in federal K-12 aid, with LEAs receiving about $13.5 billion directly. Of the remaining money, at least $753.4 million must be spent on addressing learning loss; $150.6 million each must be spent on summer enrichment and after-school programs; $376.7 million must be spent on other state activities as determined by the state educational agency to “address issues responding to coronavirus”; and $75.3 million for state administration. The money must be spent by Sept. 30, 2023.

Districts must use at least 20 percent of the federal funding to address learning loss through the implementation of evidence-based interventions, such as summer learning, comprehensive after-school programs or extended school year programs, and ensure that interventions respond to students’ academic, social and emotional needs and address the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on underserved student groups. The remaining funds can also be used to address learning loss, as well as for a variety of purposes related to supporting pupil education and well-being, including to purchase personal protective equipment, upgrade HVAC systems, or provide educational technology, mental health services and supports, professional development and much more.

Meals, sports and assessments
In an avalanche of remaining updates, the United States Department of Agriculture announced March 9 the nationwide extension through Sept. 30, 2021, of several waivers that allow all children to continue to receive nutritious meals through the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option.

The CDPH updated its guidance for Outdoor and Indoor Youth and Recreational Adult Sports (, effective March 5, stating “a team in any sport, including indoor sports, may return to competition and contact practice at any time (i.e., earlier than otherwise authorized by this Guidance), if the team adheres [to] the additional requirements imposed on collegiate sports, as specified in the Institutions of Higher Education Guidance.”

And finally, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced March 17 that it will provide $10 billion to states to support COVID-19 screening testing for K-12 teachers, staff and students in schools.