Top California legislators respond to Newsom criticism of $6.6B school reopening plan

"This is the best plan forward… it helps to get kids in the classroom as soon as possible, it also helps to make sure it’s done so safely."

LOS ANGELES - Nearly a year after California’s students were sent home, the state’s Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon (D) and State Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D), spoke with FOX 11’s Elex Michaelson about why their new proposal is the right way back to the classroom.

The "Safe and Open Schools" plan, at a cost of nearly $6.6 billion, sets April 15 as the date for K-6 schools in California’s "red tier" to reopen in-person. Schools in the state’s more restrictive "purple tier" counties, in which there are more than 7 new cases per 100,000, will allow more vulnerable students back into the classroom.

Those students "most in need," Rendon said, include those who are homeless, foster youth, lacking in technology, or at risk of abuse at home.

While the proposal marks a major legislative turning point in the race to reopen California’s schools, one person not fully satisfied is Governor Gavin Newsom, who said he believes the threshold of 7 cases per 100,000 is too restrictive, and should instead be 25 per 100,000.

"While the Legislature’s proposal represents a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough or fast enough," Newsom said Thursday in a written statement. "I look forward to building on the growing momentum to get our schools open and continuing discussions with the Legislature to get our kids back in school as safely and quickly as possible."

Michaelson asked Atkins to respond to the Governor’s criticism.

"[The proposal] doesn’t mean they can’t go back sooner, we are just putting a date there by which schools should have a plan to go back," Atkins said, stressing the fact that a number of school districts have already reopened in California.

"We’re just listening to all of the stakeholders, whether it’s parents, administrators, teachers," Atkins continued. "Trying to craft something that does exactly what [Speaker Rendon] says, get kids back to school as quickly as we can, but also as safely as we can."

Rendon echoed Atkins’ response to the Governor, stressing that April 15 is the "maximum deadline" for students in the designated tiers to return to school. "It’s the last day for kids to back," he said, "not the first."

"It’s also important to keep in mind that Los Angeles Unified School District is supportive of this proposal, San Diego Unified, Fresno, Oakland, Long Beach, six of the largest school districts in the state are in support of this plan."

In a wide-ranging discussion on The Issue Is, Rendon and Atkins also discussed whether or not teachers must be vaccinated before returning to campus, the potential recall of Governor Newsom, and their recent "Golden State Stimulus" Plan, a $9.6 billion effort which, among other things, will provide additional $600 relief checks to some 5 million low-income Californians.

The Issue Is is California's only statewide political show. Watch FOX 11 Los Angeles Fridays at 10:30 p.m. and Sundays at 9 a.m. For more showtimes and information, go to TheIssueIsShow.com.

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