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By Julian Peeples

After a 2020 nobody expected, the CTA State Council of Education met virtually this weekend for the first time this year, readying for an influx of state and federal resources to physically reopen schools safely amid a still out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic.

Only days after the historic inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, State Council members also set course for the future, unanimously re-electing CTA President E. Toby Boyd, Vice President David B. Goldberg and Secretary-Treasurer Leslie Littman to terms ending in June 2023. All three ran unopposed.

CTA President E. Toby Boyd, Vice President David B. Goldberg and Secretary-Treasurer Leslie Littman

“This has been a very interesting year and a half. I never imagined this is the ride I would be on,” Boyd said. “Thank you for having faith in me and my team.”

After four years of fighting tooth-and-nail to defend public schools and all students from the federal government, the Biden Administration is already showing that public education will be a top priority for the next four years. President Biden has already unveiled a $175-billion plan to provide schools and colleges the resources they need to physically reopen safely, stay fiscally solvent, and protect the health of educators, students and communities.

“President Biden announced additional supports for students, schools and families as states and communities struggle to address the pandemic,” Boyd said during his speech to State Council. “What a difference a few days can make!”

The potential influx of federal funds is in addition to the highest proposed funding for public education in state history—almost $86 billion in Prop. 98 school funding—as well as further resources through Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Safe Schools for All plan. The governor’s proposal includes $2 billion in incentive funding to encourage local school districts to physically return to classrooms as early as mid-next month, an idea that has garnered harsh criticism from across the education community and elected officials.

“At a legislative hearing this week, lawmakers expressed concerns about the quick timeline in the middle of surge, the use of incentive money when all schools need additional support, and the lack of focus on equity and supporting those students and communities that have been hit the hardest,” Boyd said. “It was pretty clear that the Legislature will have some changes.”

President Boyd said CTA has not wavered in our repeated calls to reopen schools only when it is safe to do so and remained consistent about what it will take to safely reopen.

“Safely reopening our schools means there are multiple safety layers in place: Smaller class sizes for social distancing, good ventilation systems, testing and tracing programs for staff and students, transparent school safety plans, statewide accountability and enforcement, mask wearing, hand washing, and access to the vaccine,” Boyd said. “No single measure stops the spread, but it’s the layer upon layer that greatly decreases the risk to our students, ourselves and others.”

During his speech to State Council, CTA Executive Director Joe Boyd reiterated that these layered prevention measures within schools that are effectively maintained and enforced, along with an efficient vaccine roll-out for school employees, are the path forward for returning to in-person learning. He said the health and safety of all students, educators and communities need to be the guiding priority for any physical reopening plan, not arbitrary dates.

“The virus is in charge right now and it does not own a calendar,” Joe Boyd said. “We cannot just pick an artificial calendar date and expect to flip a switch on opening every school. What we can do is move forward in a deliberate way when it is safe because we have done the hard work to get there.”


Taking Care of Business

While the pandemic forced the meeting virtual for the third time ever, State Council members dutifully completed business over the week leading up to the Jan. 23 general session.

Leslie Littman

The CTA Political Involvement Committee reported that while we came up just short on Prop. 15 in the November election, there was widespread success on Election Day—with 91 percent of our endorsed Assembly candidates, 82 percent of State Senate candidates, 77 percent of House of Representative hopefuls, and two-thirds of endorsed local school board candidates winning election.

A number of CTA educators also took on new leadership positions, winning election to the following offices:

  • Maritza Avila, NEA Director, District 5
  • Robert Becker, NEA Director, District 7
  • Grant Schuster, NEA Director, District 9
  • Nichole DeVore, NEA Director, District 12
  • Kelly Villalobos, NEA Director, District 14
  • Barbara Jackson, NEA Director, District 15
  • Erika Zamora, NEA Director, District 16
  • Wade Kyle, CTA ABC Committee, District J
  • Juli Stowers, CTA ABC Committee, District N

All CTA conferences will be virtual this year—and free to all members. The CTA State Council of Education will next meet April 9-11.

“Thank you for all you have done and continue to do to educate our students,” President Boyd said. “We’re all in this together.”