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Statement by Superintendent Austin Beutner (01-26-21)

CONTACT:                                                                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Shannon Haber, 213-393-1289                              January 26, 2021

Statement by Superintendent Austin Beutner

LOS ANGELES (January 26, 2021) – On December 30th, Gov. Newsom proposed a set of actions to support the reopening of schools. Unfortunately, it falls well short of what’s needed to help our schools. The state requires school districts to submit an application as part of this process and that application must include school safety plans and ratified labor agreements with all who work in schools. 

We intend to send a draft application to Sacramento as a good-faith effort to demonstrate our commitment to reopen schools as soon as possible and in the safest way possible. Under the proposed “Safe Schools for All” plan, there would be a $70 million loss in funding for schools in Los Angeles Unified if the district does not submit an application by the February 1st deadline and further reduction of $205 million if the application is not made by March 1st. 

It’s important that all in our school community understand schools in Los Angeles Unified are prepared to begin in-person instruction as soon as health conditions allow and they also understand how flawed the state’s approach has been in establishing this process. 

Los Angeles Unified’s work to create the safest possible school environment is substantially complete and has been for some time. There is nothing in the draft Safe Schools for All health protocols which has not already been put in place in our schools. 

Information about Los Angeles Unified’s school COVID safety plans have been shared with school staff and the families we serve in published guides, in meetings with school principals and in community town halls. 

By any measure, Los Angeles Unified is ready from a health and safety standpoint to welcome students back to school classrooms. To our knowledge, there is no other large school system in the nation with a School Safety Plan as comprehensive as that which is now being used in our schools. 

The relationship with our labor partners is built on mutual respect, trust and a common set of facts. It is not reasonable to assume we can reach an agreement based on a state health standard that is still being reviewed by the legislature and is not well explained or fully understood by many. The entire school community – staff, students and their families – need to have confidence in the state standards. 

It’s worth noting, COVID-19 levels in the Los Angeles area remain dangerously high and far above the proposed school reopening thresholds. At no time since March 2020 have COVID levels in the Los Angeles area met the state standard for schools to consider reopening. That is a challenge which state and local health authorities must do more to address. There is little chance the proposed COVID threshold levels in the communities we serve will be met by February 1st and many health experts tell us March 1st is unlikely. 

More broadly, the last 10 months have been a well-documented struggle in schools. Elected leaders at the state and local level need to join with those who work in schools to understand what we’ve learned, what can be improved and how we can all make sure the next 10 months are better than the past 10 months for students and their families, as well as all who work in schools. Part of this must be to make schools a clear priority in actions at the state and local level. For example, reopening malls and card rooms when schools are not yet reopened seems to be revisiting one of the issues California struggled with last fall. It’s going to take an all of government effort to reopen schools safely and begin the hard work of recovery. 

We will continue to work with the Governor and State Legislature to adopt and implement a plan to reopen schools as soon as possible and in the safest way possible.