October 15, 2020
Rachel Davis, Office of Mayor Liccardo, email@example.com, 408.712.9149
SAN JOSÉ, CA. - Today, Mayor Sam Liccardo, chair of the Big City Mayors Coalition (BCM), along with Mayors from the state's 13 largest cities, issued a letter to California's Governor Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond, urging them to consider safely reopening schools. The letter calls for a proactive, collaborative, and creative pathway to provide critical in-person education and services to K-12 students to battle the increasing equity disparities generated by prolonged distance learning. Low-income families and children throughout the state have been the most vulnerable to digital learning as it affects students' academic performance and prevents parents from returning to work.
"When the history of this pandemic is written, it will reveal that school shutdowns imposed far greater harms to our children than COVID-19 ever did--particularly for children from low-income families. The lost years of education, mental and emotional anguish, social isolation, limited access to exercise, play, and nutritious food will have impacts that will be felt for a generation, and we need a statewide commitment to get our schools open safely," said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo. "Thanks to Governor Newsom, State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, and Health Secretary Mark Ghaly for their leadership as we continue to work together to safely return our children to their classrooms."
To lessen the educational and economic impacts in the most underserved communities and bring the most vulnerable students safely back into the classroom, BCM made the following recommendations:
- Direct rapid testing and other testing resources to schools; Provide schools with PPE guidance and resources, support for making physical accommodations to school sites and expand contact tracing programs; Work with stakeholders statewide to develop uniform standards on priority student populations, testing and contact tracing protocols, site selection and staffing guidance in addition to setting a timeline for the reopening of elementary schools, with the opportunity to quickly expand to secondary schools; Prioritize serving students with special needs, Title 1 students in low-income neighborhoods, children of essential workers; and students who have experienced homeless and/or youth in the foster/kin care system, and early learners (K-2nd grade). Actively gather, analyze and distribute data from the full range of schools that have received waivers to re-open to develop best practices that could be applied in a public school setting. Establish and provide funding for partnerships with cities and counties to develop creative solutions for using underutilized spaces such as libraries, recreation centers and other public venues to provide safe and supervised spaces for students to access remote instruction and educational support. Funding options must provide consideration to the staff and necessary extra training to support this option.
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"The COVID-19 pandemic and the resource gap facing poor families has exacerbated existing disparities," The Big City Mayors collectively write. "Black, Latino, and low income students, students with special needs, newcomer students, homeless and foster youth are particularly at-risk of falling further behind their peers. Simply put, we are facing the greatest education equity crisis in most of our lifetimes."
The BCM recognizes the seriousness of reopening schools too early, however, the gap between low-income and affluent students continues to expand negatively impacting the lives of low-income children and their families.
The Big City Mayors is a coalition of Mayors across California's 13 largest cities. Members include Mayors from Los Angeles, San Diego, San José, San Francisco, Fresno, Sacramento, Long Beach, Oakland, Bakersfield, Anaheim, Riverside, Santa Ana, and Stockton.
To read the full letter, click here.
Quotes from Big City Mayors
Mayor Eric Garcetti, Los Angeles
"When COVID-19 forced schools to shut down, Mayors saw firsthand how it impacted families, students, and teachers, how it hit those already struggling hardest, and how it only widened the digital divide -- and we want nothing more than to find a way to get our young people back in the classroom. The pandemic has laid bare deep inequities in our educational system, and we are willing to roll up our sleeves alongside state leaders to ensure that we quickly and safely reopen all our schools for in-person learning once there is a clear timeline and needed resources in place."
Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer, San Diego
"The reality is that technology cannot replace in-person learning, and public school students are falling behind as a result. The key to safely getting back into the classroom is a robust testing regimen for teachers, faculty and students. I'm joining my fellow California mayors to respectfully request the Governor join us in taking several actions to help us safely return to classrooms, including the immediate distribution of millions of tests recently provided to Sacramento by the federal government to local districts."
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Mayor London Breed, San Francisco
"With the disparities in the reopening of our schools, we are seeing the already alarming achievement gap widen even further. We can and will continue to do what we can to support our school district locally, but we need more support from the state to ensure that our public schools can reopen safely both for the students and for the teachers and faculty who take care of our kids every day. COVID has challenged us like never before, but working together we can get our kids safely back in the classroom."
Mayor Rusty Bailey, Riverside
"We cannot allow an entire generation of our children to be left behind academically and socially because of the COVID shutdowns. The state of our children's mental health is alarming and we must take immediate action to safely return our kids to their classrooms."
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