Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a $2 billion push Wednesday to reopen California elementary schools for the youngest students in February, offering incentives and testing to school districts that resume classroom instruction.
The centerpiece is a $2 billion mid-year budget request that would channel money toward getting kids back in classrooms, with an emphasis on younger children who are in transitional kindergarten through second grade. Priority will be given to districts with large numbers of low-income students, foster youth or English learners — groups whose disadvantages have been exacerbated during distance learning.
"As a parent of very young children, in-person instruction, there's just no substitute for it," said Newsom, a father of four. "It's just so much more difficult for a 4-year-old to focus on a device than a 14-year-old."
While Newsom and lawmakers have come under immense pressure to reopen schools, that has put them in direct opposition to influential teachers unions that argue classrooms remain unsafe. Unions have already opposed legislation to compel swifter reopenings, and the success of Newsom’s plan could hinge on the approval and cooperation of local teachers.