Issues arise with Governor’s school reopening plan
Safe Schools for All plan includes frequent required COVID-19 testing and use of Proposition 98 funds for non-educational expenses

When Gov. Gavin Newsom released the 2021–22 budget proposal on Jan. 8, many in education celebrated the seemingly significant investments in school reopening and learning loss mitigation amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal includes the paying down of most school funding deferrals and a Local Control Funding Formula cost-of-living adjustment, as well as additional investments in teacher preparation, pension relief and special education.

It also includes the Safe Schools for All plan — a $2 billion grant program that would make available on a per-pupil basis funds for schools that resume in-person instruction by specified dates. While state funding to help local educational agencies purchase personal protective equipment, enhance and expand COVID-19 testing for employees and students, and provide mental health support services is welcome, details of the plan left a lot to be desired.

A Jan. 19 letter to the Governor from CSBA and other statewide education organizations highlighted significant changes that need to be made to the Safe Schools for All plan in order to increase participation by LEAs and serve more students across the state.

Read the latest letters from CSBA and other district and COE leadership organizations to the Governor advocating on behalf of California’s LEAs

Among the many potent challenges addressed in the letter, those regarding the plan’s testing provisions have risen to the top due to financial and logistical hurdles. “Because COVID-19 testing for students and staff is central to the reopening plan, it is critical that schools actually have the capacity to operationalize and pay for the new testing requirements. Currently, the vast majority of LEAs do not believe such a path exists,” the letter reads. “Few schools are testing students. Ramping up testing to cover all staff and students will require an unrealistic amount of infrastructure, staffing, new billing operations, private and state lab capacity, testing contracts, collection and transportation of tests, and additional employee negotiations due to changes in working conditions.”

Lawmakers say school reopening plan is unworkable

Legislators have since expressed many of the same doubts as CSBA. Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) noted in a Jan. 21 Senate education hearing that the extra $450 to $700 per student Newsom is proposing is not even enough to cover the costs of the COVID-19 testing required to be eligible for the program. “Testing on the regiment that is in the reopening plan — it is going to eat up that $450 just on testing,” McGuire said.

The cheapest testing that the Mendocino County Office of Education has been able to find on a saliva-based test is between $38 and $50, McGuire said. “I’m very concerned in regard to what that’s going to mean in the requirements on districts just on the testing side.”

Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) was among the many to point out the lack of an explicit requirement under the plan to vaccinate educators. “I think it’s hard to ask teachers and staff to go back when there’s no plan to vaccinate them,” Leyva said. “I would like to know there’s actually a school district out there that thinks this plan is workable because I have not found one.”

Meanwhile, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded in a handout ( that the unrealistic Feb. 1 deadline does not allow districts enough time to complete their updated school reopening plans, arrange for routine testing and develop collective bargaining agreements with their labor unions. Other timeline challenges remain. For instance, the LAO noted, it is unclear whether state agencies and local health departments even have the capacity to provide the necessary technical assistance to help schools develop and implement their reopening plans on such short notice. And the Governor’s budget does not augment California Department of Public Health or local budgets for the purpose of absorbing such a significant new workload.

CDPH releases updated school reopening guidance for 2020–21 school year

The California Department of Public Health on Jan. 14 released an update to its “COVID-19 and Reopening In-Person Instruction Framework & Public Health Guidance for K-12 Schools in California, 2020–2021 School Year.” ( The document notes the new version consolidates content from other CDPH COVID-19 and school-related guidance and supersedes previous CDPH COVID-19 and Cal/OSHA school guidance.

To keep up with the latest guidance and information related to COVID-19 and schools, visit CSBA’s dedicated COVID-19 webpage at