ANOTHER VIEW: Work In Schools' Hands Now

Source: The Grunion Gazette

The State has provided the resources. Now school districts, including Long Beach Unified, must plan and take action to help our students recover.

The State has provided the resources.  Now school districts, including Long Beach Unified, must plan and take action to help our students recover.


As the parent of two high school students, a teacher, and the chair of the Education Committee in the State Assembly, I pushed hard to allocate billions of dollars to school districts across the state to specifically address the learning and academic deficit many of our students in Long Beach and beyond have experienced due to pandemic school closures. In March, the state Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law AB 86, allocating $6.6 billion to schools.  I am a firm believer that the call for “opening schools back up” represents only the first step in meeting our obligation to ensure student academic success and to address the social and emotional health of our children. 


Long Beach Unified and districts across the state will soon receive a large sum of money to address a variety of student needs related to their extended absence from the classroom. Districts must have a plan developed by June 1st for how they wish to spend the money and are given significant lee-way in how they seek to prioritize their efforts and funding.


All students have been affected by the COVID-19 school disruptions, and schools’ recovery efforts should focus on the needs of all students. English learners entering kindergarten have suffered, but so too have some of the typically high academically performing high school students. Middle schoolers need help, while other students have social emotional, and health needs that also must be addressed. School districts should provide a menu of options for parents and students.     


Long Beach Unified students and parents, like all Californians, should expect a strategic, targeted, and aggressive plan from their school district to address the needs of all students and to wisely target the learning loss dollars allocated from Sacramento. Districts should be aggressive in their efforts but not start large new programs that will require annual funding on an ongoing basis.


A robust summer school program and increased investment in school site counselors would be a good starting point, but more will be required. Some students in the lower grades will need one-on-one reading and math support. Middle school students cannot be forgotten as well, as many have missed out on the foundational skills for high school success. High school students bring their own unique challenges, with some needing to make up lost class credits and others needing to bring up a once stellar grade point average for college acceptance.  Districts should ensure that programs are engaging learning opportunities and consider incorporating enriching activities such as arts and music.  No student should be left behind and every district plan must contemplate all student needs.


The state has provided the dollars. Now it is up to school districts to develop a plan and ensure its aggressive implementation. The future of California’s youth and the future of California’s economy rely on the success of this effort.


Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell represents the 70th State Assembly District, which includes Long Beach, Signal Hill, San Pedro and Catalina Island.