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Six urban California school districts say budget cuts will delay reopening

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SAN FRANCISCO — Six California school districts representing more than 900,000 students say the governor's proposed budget cuts will delay the reopening of schools.

Officials with the Los Angeles Unified, which is the second largest school district in the country with 600,000 students, joined with five other urban districts in a Monday letter to legislators, saying they need more money to safely reopen schools and not less. The other districts are Sacramento, San Francisco, Oakland, San Diego and Long Beach.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed $14 billion in budget cuts because of the coronavirus, with more than half coming at the expense of public schools that have struggled to teach students remotely since mid-March, when he issued a statewide stay at home order.

“Cuts will mean that the reopening of schools will be delayed even after state guidance and clearance from public health officials is given," reads the letter sent to legislative leaders and those reviewing the education budget.

Newsom's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The governor has said cuts could have been deeper and he is using federal money to help schools overcome “learning losses” during the pandemic and eliminating some tax breaks to send more money to schools.

“The notion that schools can continue to operate safely in the fall with a decreased state budget is not realistic," the letter reads. “We cannot in good conscience risk the health and safety of our students and staff by returning to the classroom prematurely and without funding for the necessary precautions" given the lack of nationwide testing and a better understanding of the virus.

The superintendents suggest several ways to bridge the funding gap, including a new statewide utility charge to provide all students with internet at home. The schools would like flexibility to reduce the school year without penalty and to suspend new mandates, according to the letter.

The Legislature must approve a revised budget by mid-June.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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