I want to believe that California’s public schools will reopen this fall. I really do.
When the Los Angeles Unified School District and United Teachers Los Angeles finally reached an agreement in late June to fully reopen schools this fall, I was cautiously optimistic. Los Angeles was the major holdout in the state, remaining more locked down and more vocal than other, smaller districts, with the union demanding more and more giveaways as time went on. If they, the largest school district in the state, could commit to a full reopening, surely, schools up and down the state would be back-to-normal by August.
But the closer we get back to school, the more skeptical I am that, well, kids will be allowed back.
In the past weeks and days, mask restrictions are being reinstituted, even as vaccination rates in many areas reach and surpass the levels needed for herd immunity. And now, top officials including Governor Gavin Newsom and union top brass are shifting how they talk about school reopenings.
On June 7, Newsom said, “a return to full, in-person instruction is what’s best for our students.”
By July 9, Newsom surrogate and CA Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly added a notable condition to school reopenings. “We believe that with masking and with testing, we can get kids back to in person 100% in our schools.”
And now this week, the Governor created more cause for alarm. “You’re putting at risk the ability to educate our kids by getting them back in-person full time,” Newsom said of Californians who choose not to receive a COVID vaccine. Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the top public health official in Los Angeles, added to the doubt, calling the Delta variant a “game changer” for schools.
Especially illuminating regarding what’s to come for schools were comments by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. She briefly paused this week from trying to convince the public that it was Trump, not unions, who kept schools closed to say, “we’re going to try to open up schools.”
Their comments raise concerns that school reopenings could end up being contingent on vaccine rates, or some other new goal post.
For many parents, the 2020-21 school year was enough to convince them to seek alternative educational arrangements for their children. California public schools experienced a record-setting decline in enrollment – over 160,000 students lost – in the early days of the pandemic. When numbers for the full school year are updated, it’s likely we will realize even more students have left. As the upcoming year looks less certain, parents who held out may be wondering how they can ensure their children resume learning and are no longer pawns of the union.
This Saturday, CPC’s Parent Union will launch a series of virtual events to help parents understand the educational options available outside the traditional public school setting. The interactive meetings will cover alternatives like homeschooling, charter schools, private schools, and virtual resources. The events will bring together parents who are already taking advantage of school choice and those who are curious.
To find dates and times for the events, learn more, and RSVP, please click here. And, please share this opportunity with any parents of school-aged children you know so they go into the 2021-2022 school year with all the information they need.