LA teachers union pushes back on plan for reopening schools

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Leadership for the union representing teachers of the Los Angeles Unified School District are opposing the latest plan for reopening schools announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday.

United Teachers Los Angeles says for teachers to return to the classroom, their demands remain the same: L.A. County must move out of the state's purple tier, returning staff must be vaccinated or have access to vaccines and proper coronavirus safety measures must be in place on campus.

UTLA President Cecily Myart-Cruz said in a written statement that unless those demands are met, they will "not accept an arbitrary return to school date."

California Gov. Gavin Newsom and state legislative leaders have reached an agreement aimed at getting most public school children back in classrooms by the end of March. Under the deal announced Monday, school districts could tap into $2 billion in new funding if they reopen classrooms by March 31.

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California's public schools could get $6.6 billion from the state if they return to in-person instruction by the end of March, according to a new agreement between Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state's legislative leaders.

Schools must return to in-person instruction at least through second grade to get the money. Districts in regions with coronavirus case numbers at low enough levels must return to in-person instruction for all elementary school grades, plus one grade each in middle and high school.

Another $4.6 billion will be available for academic interventions for students who have fallen behind and is not contingent on a return to classrooms.

Myart-Cruz blasted the plan, claiming it would benefit affluent communities and leave low-income communities of color behind.

"If you condition funding on the reopening of schools, that money will only go to white and wealthier and healthier school communities that do not have the transmission rates that low-income Black and brown communities do," said Myart-Cruz. "This is a recipe for propagating structural racism and it is deeply unfair to the students we serve."

While the goal of the legislation is to get young students back to campus by April 1, LAUSD is unlikely to meet that date. District Superintendent Austin Beutner has set a target date of April 9 for reopening elementary schools, but the powerful UTLA has not agreed to that date, which it says is subject to labor talks.

UTLA's membership is voting this week on a proposed statement of opposition to reopening campuses, saying in-person instruction cannot resume until its three demands are met. UTLA says results will be announced Friday.

Beutner has supported the union's call for vaccinations before a return to classes. Teachers and other school staff in L.A. County became eligible for COVID vaccines on Monday, with the LAUSD even operating a vaccination site dedicated to education workers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood.

Most public school classes have not been held in-person since March of last year because of the coronavirus. Many districts have struggled to reach agreements with teachers' unions on the best way to return students and staff to the classroom.

City News Service and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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