After most of us have been away from our school campuses for more than a year, the 2021-22 school year will start with most educators and students back at school for in-person instruction. For many of you, I’m sure the opportunity to be in the same physical space as your students and colleagues is a welcome return to normal. For others, it’s still fraught with concern, and for most of us, it’s a combination of both.
With the Delta COVID-19 variant spreading this summer, it will be vital that school districts adhere to safety protocols and to local CTA chapter MOUs where they remain in effect. Fortunately, school districts will have additional funding to reopen safely. The state budget Gov. Newsom signed in June has a record $93.7 billion for K-12 and community colleges, a $23 billion increase over last year’s budget. In addition to money targeted toward COVID-19 recovery, several other programs have significant new investment, including professional development, as well as classified and administrative training programs.
Of huge significance (and as a kindergarten teacher, I’m especially excited about this) is the phase-in of universal transitional kindergarten starting in 2022-23. This tremendous step forward for early childhood education will have a long-lasting, positive impact for students and educators at all grade levels. I’m also thrilled that the budget includes $3 billion to expand community schools in high-need areas, including those where students and communities have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Promoting the community school model, with supports for health care, child care and other community-based services, is a top CTA priority.
“ ‘Back to normal’ won’t work for all students. Let’s take this opportunity to reimagine and reshape California schools with equity at the center of every decision.”
With such positive news on the budget front, we must be on guard against forces in play that would try to undo all that good. The recall effort launched against Gov. Newsom is a well-funded campaign backed by those who would dismantle public education. The top-funded candidates on the ballot opposing the governor support school vouchers, stripping schools of direct funding and instead giving all parents $14,000 to spend at any traditional public, charter or private school (California voters have soundly defeated voucher ballot measures twice in the past). One leading candidate, a radio talk show host, has said he would declare a state of emergency and fire thousands of educators. I urge all CTA members to vote no on the recall Sept. 14, and to encourage our friends and family members to do the same. Gov. Newsom has earned our support, and we must now defeat a recall movement whose goal is to destroy public education as we know it.
Finally, as we reopen schools and return to classrooms with a new infusion of desperately needed funding, I hope we all realize that “back to normal” won’t work for all students. Let’s take advantage of this exciting opportunity to reimagine and reshape California schools with equity at the center of every decision, ensuring that students most impacted by the pandemic and by systemic racism have the support and opportunities to achieve their full potential. CTA is part of a broad coalition intent on doing just that. You can learn more at reimaginecaschools.org.
We must all work together to make this a safe and successful year for every student. I know we’re up to that challenge. I wish each of you a wonderful and successful year. CTA is here for you.
E. Toby Boyd