Our Response to Covid 19

The COVID-19 crisis has made clear what many of us know to be true: our success and prosperity—throughout California and the United States—depend on our public schools’ capacity to serve as beacons of light and hope that spark opportunity. As schools across the state closed down in response to COVID-19, students and families lost access to schools as critical hubs of connection, community resources and learning.

The California Partnership for the Future of Learning conducted a needs assessment based on feedback from more than 20 grassroots education and racial justice organizations who heard from over 600 students and families from low-income communities of color in more than 20 school districts across the state. We wanted to learn directly from students and families about their most critical needs at this moment and use them to inform our ongoing work to transform California’s public schools to be just and inclusive for all.

The following top concerns emerged:

  1.  The importance of support for mental health and building positive relationships for students
  2.  Access to equitable learning environments in every home and every school
  3.  Addressing the uncertainty facing students, especially juniors and seniors worried about graduation, college, and financial aid
  4.  Engaging students, parents, and educators as leaders to create the solutions our schools and communities need
  5.  Addressing the intersecting needs of families and students and the importance of schools as a safety net


We’re calling on elected officials to follow these 10 recommendations, so every school and every community has access to the resources and support needed to thrive.

Inadequate public education funding has been a perpetual and devastating problem in communities of color and areas of concentrated poverty for decades. Real improvement must start with building equity and a lens that looks at race in everything we do in schools, from assessment about needs to decision-making to instruction. A racial equity lens must be applied to each of the demands in our policy platform to truly make an impact.


  • Center all investments, actions, and collection of data on
    children and families most impacted by the pandemic and
    economic crisis—people of color, particularly Black youth and families;
  • Give additional focus to students of color who are also English Learners, unhoused, indigenous, undocumented or from mixed-status families, have a disability, live in rural areas, attend alternative schools, or are impacted by the juvenile justice or foster care systems.

Relationships are the foundation of every thriving school, and are the key to student success in college, career, and community leadership. In fact, our recent needs assessment that included the voices of more than 600 Californian youth and parents of color, identified support for mental health and building positive relationships for students as the number one priority. Community School models are one innovative and effective way to reimagine public schools as neighborhood hubs for health, relationships, resources, and education for the entire community.


  • Issue guidance to districts around mental health and social emotional supports during distance learning, including regular, personal outreach to students and families;
  • Use Federal stimulus funds and state resources to invest in community schools and other health and social emotional supports and create incentives for districts to reallocate funds and staff from existing resources that are not proven to have educational benefits, such as policing and school resource officers;
  • Require School Climate Surveys so every district is accountable for improving safety, relationships, empowerment, and conditions of learning;
  • Invest in professional development for educators (teachers, counselors, social workers) around social emotional learning & mental health.

Schools don’t work for too many of us, because our voices
haven’t been centered in conversations about what our schools and communities need. We have an unprecedented opportunity to engage students, educators, and families to lead the way in designing new approaches for distanced learning and when we go back to school.


  • Recognize students and families as essential assets and leaders within our school communities;
  • Issue guidance to districts to prioritize student and family engagement in co-creating plans for the return to school, developing the 2020-2021 budget including federal and state funds, and finalize the LCAP;
  • Collaborate with community advocates to support new family and student engagement strategies rooted in shared decision- making that bolster student learning;
  • Require districts to publicly set goals and accountability for engagement of students and families (e.g. percentage of under- represented students and families reached);
  • Create student task forces to work with local, state and higher education leaders to solve the unique challenges facing upperclassmen and college students.

As schools prepare to return to the classroom, our actions must repair both short- and long-term harm caused by the crisis. We can’t simply plan to return to the status quo; instead we have the opportunity to reimagine California as a place where every student goes to an amazing school if we start to fully invest in them with a focus on equity and inclusivity for all. Students, their families, and educators must be the architects of this new path forward.


  • Fund summer school, extended learning time, and extra tutoring with an emphasis on social emotional wellness, and mental health support;
  • Create statewide and local task forces that includes the voices of students, families, and educators to address the long-term impacts of learning loss;
  • Provide professional development on trauma-informed practices, building trusting relationships, and adopting anti-racist norms, including how COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted Black, Latinx, undocumented, and Asian communities and how to provide culturally competent support to these communities;
  • Invest in counseling for every senior and junior to help them navigate their future;
  • Focus on healing and re-engagement rather than punitive approaches towards grading, attendance, and school discipline.

Even before learning went online, the digital divide experienced by families of color impacted our children’s ability to learn. In recent weeks, great strides have been taken to connect young people with hot spots, computers, and internet access. Moving forward, digital access should be a universal and permanent right for every Californian, similar to other public utilities.


  • Declare access to internet and devices a basic educational right under the terms of the Williams Settlement and make these resources permanent, inclusive, and non-punitive;
  • Invest in digital infrastructure—in consultation with local communities—in rural regions and other areas in the state with barriers to digital access;
  • Ensure every student, family, and educator is supported and prepared to use technology to learn and teach from home.

With California schools through the transition to distance learning, it is time for the State to evaluate our progress and hold Districts accountable so that no students are left behind.


  • Conduct a statewide assessment to hear from students, families, and educators on how distance learning is rolling out and how districts are serving students most impacted by this crisis;
  • Share bright spots from the assessment for cross-district learning;
  • Take action to address districts and charters that are not meeting state equity obligations.

With students at home, Californians around the state are recognizing the vital and difficult job that teachers undertake every day. We need to channel this recognition to win policies and practices and recruit and retain fully prepared teachers and provide jobs with living wages, good benefits, and resources for ongoing learning and development.


  • Provide teachers with an adequate living wage, smaller class sizes, and support for social emotional health so that Districts can recruit and retain excellent educators that reflect the diversity of students;
  • Ensure teachers have the tools and training they need to feel safe and supported returning to the classroom;
  • Build on pre-COVID investments in teacher training and professional development;
    • Prevent the loss of teaching positions during forthcoming recession.

Schools are more than just places of learning. When the schools shut down, millions of families were cut off from their community and safety net overnight. For the health and vibrancy of all communities, now is the time to work creatively and collaboratively across systems to address long standing structural inequities—
first to meet the immediate needs of our community, and then to adopt policies which can repair and prevent further harm.


  • Safe and stable places for students to live. In addition to freezing evictions for tenants, families need relief from rental and mortgage payments, and emergency housing and services for more than 370,000 unhoused students across the state;
  • Repeal Proposition 209 and provide agencies the ability to use race-conscious strategies in creating a California for all;
  • Free, accessible testing and quality health care for all, regardless of immigration status, housing status or income, including for those who are incarcerated, detained or in group homes;
  • Ensuring all Californians can access paid leave and unemployment benefits regardless of their imigration status or workplace;
  • Relief for small businesses and community-based organizations;
  • Universal, free childcare, early learning, nutritional and financial
    resources for families with young children;
  • Keeping families together and reuniting those that have been separated by Incarceration, detention or face separation by threat of deportation.

Access to high quality early care and education creates a strong foundation for a lifetime of success. Policy and budget decisions must include high-quality early learning opportunities for our youngest students and address the needs of the early childhood education workforce, many of whom are low-wage earners and are serving children of color and Dual Language Learners.


  • Establish the Department of Early Childhood Development that includes an office of equity to collect and apply data by race to drive results and allocate dollars to improve child outcomes;
  • Protect and expand early care and education access through stability in payment for providers along with hazard pay;
  • Support the early learning workforce through developing specific competencies and funding professional development for those serving Dual Language Learners;
  • Ensure supports for the Family Child Care Home and Family Friends and Neighbor sector to school.

Though California is one of the wealthiest of the United States, we are in the bottom third of the nation in education funding. This insufficient commitment to funding public schools has serious repercussions including in this crisis. This is the moment for us to go all in and invest to fulfill the promises of real equity, opportunity, and justice in our public schools.


  • Pass the Schools and Communities First ballot initiative in November 2020;
  • Maintain school funding at pre-COVID levels, and protect supplemental and concentration grants in particular;
  • Apply an equity funding formula that prioritizes highest need students for all funding sources (federal, state, local) and protect LCFF and other funding for highest needs students and schools during budget reduction decisions;
  • Adopt a strategy for fully funding schools over the next 7 years beginning with Schools and Community First;
  • Use federal COVID-19 funds to supplement, not replace, state dollars to support a restorative approach to learning loss.

These 10 recommendations are based on the needs of students and families from our most impacted communities -- Black and Brown, rural, low-income, special education, English Learner and foster youth. Up and down California, we’ve listened to the needs of our students and families and are building together with them to ensure we pursue an education system that is built for us all.

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