San Diego & Los Angeles Unified School Districts Seeking Help from Sacramento

State’s Two Largest School Districts Call For Emergency State Appropriation to Public Schools To Meet the Moment in Response to the COVID-19 Health Crisis

pr Leaders from the state’s two largest school systems, Los Angeles Unified and San Diego Unified, released a letter this morning to their state legislative delegations calling for a coordinated state response to the COVID-19 health crisis. Among the members of the two city’s legislative delegations are both Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins. Together, the state’s two largest districts serve 750,000 students.

“From the moment that our two districts announced plans to close to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic, our legislative leaders have been there to support our students,” said Los Angeles Unified Austin Beutner and San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten in a joint statement. “They took bold action to save thousands of jobs by ensuring status quo funding for school systems across the state. Without that action, our economy would be in more trouble than we already face, and thanks to that action, we are able to focus on serving our children.”

In the week following the decision to close, San Diego Unified provided online learning opportunities to last students through the start of spring break on March 27, and they served 50,000 meals to needy families. Los Angeles Unified is supporting students and families most in need by providing over 250,000 meals a day through more than 60 Grab & Go Food Centers and providing meals for Los Angeles City homeless shelters. Los Angeles Unified is investing $100 million to provide devices and internet access to all students and expanding training in online education for students, families and educators. San Diego Unified joined an effort that Los Angeles Unified launched with PBS a week ago, and over 100,000 people in the Los Angeles area are watching PBS learning shows each day.

“Knowing the incredible sacrifices our teachers and support staff have made already, it is time to acknowledge that much work lies ahead,” the leaders continued. “Our schools and families have met this challenge so far with determination, but our students deserve much more, and we want to work with our legislative leaders to ensure each and every student can continue his or her academic journey.”

Superintendents Beutner and Marten described the challenge as one of supply and demand. Continuing the current academic year under the new constraints of a distance learning model means meeting the demands of thousands of individual learners, who include English Learners, gifted students, homeless students and students with disabilities. Meeting those demands will require the wholesale retraining of a workforce that exceeds 40,000 educators and a supply of technology devices for all students to access at home, including those students without a home.

“Simply put, we face the largest adaptive challenge for large urban public education systems in a generation. Pick your metaphor: This is the moon shot, the Manhattan Project, the Normandy landing, and the Marshall Plan, and the clock is ticking,” they said.

The leaders called on the Legislature to consider emergency state funding for school districts consistent with the size of the challenge ahead, because school systems cannot adequately plan “with one hand tied behind our backs.”

“It is time to stop focusing on uncertainty and what we do not know. The one thing we know for certain is we have to serve 750,000 students, so let’s get on with that.”

A copy of the letter sent to the Los Angeles and San Diego legislative delegations is attached here<>.