Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) joined 17 of his Senate Budget Committee colleagues Tuesday in supporting Assembly Bill 86, which aims to get all California students and teachers back in the classrooms.
California has the unenviable designation as 49th out of 50 states in terms of students' in-person instruction. After nearly a year, many of our rural and minority school children still lack the necessary equipment and Internet access for distance learning. And even when they have them, many children are left on their own as parents, unable to work from home, go to their jobs.
On February 17, Senator Brian Dahle and Assemblywoman Megan Dahle (R-Bieber) hosted a virtual meeting with dozens of school superintendents from throughout their districts. The meeting was prompted by letters the Dahle's received from educators that expressed concern over the Governor's recent school re-opening guidelines that threatened to shut them down. Subsequently, 20 school superintendents joined the Dahle's in sending a letter to the Governor to restate those concerns.
While most California students have been learning remotely this school year, roughly half of school districts are open, according to data recently released by the California Department of Public Health. In the northeastern California counties of the 1st Senate District, a majority of schools have consistently been open, many operating on full-time schedules and doing so successfully since August.
"Many of the schools in our districts have been open, educating students successfully since August, and should be commended for working with their county health officials, parents, students and teachers to provide a safe place at school," said Senator Dahle. "Generally, our message to Sacramento has been to let us continue to safely provide in-person education to our students."
Senator Dahle drafted amendments to ensure that schools that were already open would be protected from new burdensome requirements to access necessary funding to keep children and teachers safe. The Senator was pleased to see that AB 86 incorporated those amendments and the sentiment that schools that have been open safely for months can continue in-person education for students.
"We know from experience that schools can run safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am disappointed that negotiations took this long. But I am encouraged that now the remainder of California students will be back in the classroom, sooner rather than later," Dahle continued. "Let me be clear - politicizing our children's future is never OK."
As part of the $6.6 billion in incentives included in AB 86, $4.6 billion is programmed for student learning loss, which can include mental health counselors, an idea that Senator Dahle put forward in his Senate Bill 229.
AB 86 unanimously passed the Senate Budget Committee (18-0) and is expected to be on the Senate Floor for a final vote this Thursday.