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COVID Reopening: San Francisco School District Accused Of Using Loophole To Qualify For State Funds

SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) -- Three state legislators representing San Francisco on Monday wrote a letter asking the state not to give the SFUSD $12 million in COVID-19 reopening funds because they said the district didn't get enough students back in class to qualify.

A letter authored by San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting and signed by fellow SF legislators State Senator Scott Wiener and Assemblymember David Chiu urged the state to not pay the San Francisco Unified School District $12 million in school reopening funds after the district did not follow the the framework outlined by Ting's reopening bill AB 86 that passed earlier this year.

To qualify for funding, districts were required to reopen for all elementary school grades and at least one grade in middle or high school by the May 15 deadline.

The letter, addressed to both State Controller Betty Yee and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, states that legislators "plainly see that the SFUSD plan, which only offers a select few high school seniors to return before May 15th, is a poor attempt to exploit a perceived legal loophole."

The letter also noted that the intent of COVID reopening bill was for plans to be proposed and fully implemented before May 15.

"We call on you, the school fiscal agents for the state, to ensure this perceived loophole is not allowed," the letter read.

The letter maintains that the bill aimed to provide funding for districts that were able to "offer in-person instruction to the greatest extent possible" and, after reopening, provide continuous instruction through the end of the school year.

"The definition of 'offered' in-person instruction to all pupils in at least one full grade level could not be clearer. We did not intend for some pupils to be merely informed of when they may see the inside of a classroom, a teacher and their peers, on some future date," according to the letter.

The letter from legislators also said the SFUSD only made the offer return to schools to "focal" students without including students who have an individualized education plan, are homeless or are English as a second language students.

So far, the San Francisco Unified School District has not issued a statement in response to the letter.

San Francisco parents and city officials have had a contentious year with school district officials over COVID reopening plans. SF City Attorney Dennis Herrera in March requested a preliminary injunction that would have forced SFUSD officials to reopen schools by the end of April. That request was denied in late March.

In February, Herrera filed a lawsuit to compel the district and school board to come up with a plan to reopen schools for all students for the remainder of the school year, as public schools have been closed for a year and replaced with distance learning.

Earlier this month, United Educators of San Francisco reached an agreement with the district to let 12th grade students return for in-person learning May 14.

The last day of classroom instruction in the San Francisco Unified School District is June 2. Graduation ceremonies are set for June 1 through 3.

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