$6.6 Billion Package to Safely Return Students to In-Person Instruction Signed into Law

Today, Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law AB 86, a $6.6 billion budget package that aims to accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction statewide and support schools in expanding academic, mental health, and social-emotional supports. Earlier in the week, the Governor, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced at an Elk Grove elementary school their agreement on the budget package to provide $2 billion for safety measures to support in-person learning and $4.6 billion to fund expanded learning opportunities, including through summer school, tutoring, and mental health services.

Under the agreement, all public schools will be required to offer in-person instruction to grades K-2 for all students and for high-needs students in all grades by the end of the month, losing one percent of eligible educational funds every day thereafter if schools do not open. Schools in the jurisdictions in the Blueprint for a Safer Economy Red tier or better will be required to offer in-person instruction to all students in all elementary grades and at least one middle or high school grade or risk the same penalty.

Additionally, the budget measure codifies several school-related activities undertaken by the Newsom Administration, including:

  • Vaccine Prioritization for K-12 School Staff: AB 86 codifies the Governor’s recent announcement that 10 percent of all COVID-19 vaccines will be dedicated to education personnel.
  • Data Reporting: The package additionally codifies reporting requirements, including requirements for schools to report reopening status and COVID-19 safety measures. According to the Administration, these statutory requirements will increase transparency and data will be accessible on the Safe Schools Hub.
  • State Safe Schools Team: AB 86 provides $25 million to the State Safe Schools Team to provide technical assistance, oversight, and accountability to the over 10,000 public schools in the state.

The budget measure was heard by the Senate Budget & Fiscal Review Committee and the Assembly Budget Committee earlier in the week and was voted on by both houses on Thursday. The measure received bipartisan support, with many lawmakers discussing the urgent need to safely return students to schools and address learning losses due to the pandemic. During debate on the measure on the Senate and Assembly floors, several lawmakers who have struggled in instructing their own children during the pandemic expressed relief that their children would soon be returning to the classroom. AB 86 advanced from the Senate on a 36-0 vote with three Senators not voting; the Assembly sent the measure to the Governor on a 72-4 vote with three Members not voting.

Governor Newsom signed into law AB 86 in a virtual ceremony joined by pro Tem Atkins, Speaker Rendon, State Superintended of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Board of Education President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Senators Nancy Skinner, John Laird, and Connie Leyva, and Assembly Members Phil Ting and Kevin McCarty.