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San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

This post originally appeared in the March 27 Sacramento Report. Get the Sacramento Report delivered to your inbox.

New costs to shift all students to online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic are expected to pile up, according to the superintendents of the San Diego Unified and Los Angeles Unified school districts, who asked state legislators for more emergency funds totaling $3 billion statewide this week. If granted, San Diego Unified would receive roughly $51.5 million in additional emergency funds for 103,000 students.

The request received a generally warm reception from some members of the San Diego delegation, including Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron and Assemblyman Todd Gloria, who expressed the most support. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez had a chillier response and wanted to see the schools’ plan before writing a check.

San Diego’s superintendent Cindy Marten along with Los Angeles Unified chief Austin Beutner requested an extra $500 per student Monday, beyond their routine funding and the $100 million in state emergency funds already given to schools statewide for cleaning and protective gear.

Details about what exactly the districts want to spend that money on are scant, though Los Angeles Unified said in the press release it’s already spending $100 million to purchase 150,000 devices and provide internet for students who don’t have it, and online training for educators and families. Their total ask this week tops $325 million.

San Diego Unified’s request totals roughly $51.5 million for its 103,000 students. San Diego schools already have technology devices for every student and are working to disburse them, officials told the San Diego Union-Tribune. No internet deals to fill gaps for students have been announced, and district officials didn’t answer VOSD’s inquiries this week.

“I applaud the superintendents and their staffs for taking initiative, but I’m not ready to commit to supporting a specific number at this time without having more details about the scope of a distant learning program, what if any federal assistance will be available to schools and the choices available to parents to allow their students to repeat a grade or send them to summer school,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

Atkins also mentioned the possibility of federal support for schools.

“In these unprecedented times, the Legislature is working overtime to support all our communities – including our schools,” Atkins said in a statement. “We will also need the support of our federal partners to find appropriate funding solutions as we tackle this challenge. I will continue to work with SDUSD to find the right solutions.”

Gloria also said he’s been in “constant contact” with San Diego Unified and understands the struggle they face “to provide an equitable education to all their students.”

“We should be supporting our schools at this time and that includes how we can make distance learning and other support services work,” Gloria said in a statement. “My staff and I have passed along this request to the governor’s office. We are doing what we can to help the district during this difficult time. Additional action would be necessary to approve the funding. I know the state is juggling multiple funding requests right now, but I commend the resources and support the governor and my colleagues in the Legislature have already given our schools. Hopefully we can add to them.”

Waldron said in a statement she thinks “the state needs to work with school districts to put in place comprehensive procedures and infrastructure for emergency distance learning. I am committed to working with the governor, school districts and my legislative colleagues to address this issue.”

Ashly McGlone

Ashly is a freelance investigative reporter. She formerly worked as a staff reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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