In summary

Superintendents say budget cuts could delay start of school year. Cuts to adult day programs could force more seniors into nursing homes.

Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, May 20.

Fall semester could be delayed

Some school districts may delay their fall semesters due to budget cuts. Image via iStock

Most of California is gearing up to reopen, with one notable exception: schools.

The superintendents of six school districts collectively enrolling nearly 1 million students warned Gov. Gavin Newsom and top lawmakers Monday that their fall reopening would be delayed due to the governor’s proposed $6.5 billion cut to school funding.

  • Superintendents of Los Angeles, San Diego, Long Beach, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento City Unified school districts in a letter: “Cuts will mean that the reopening of schools will be delayed even after state guidance and clearance from public health officials is given. The notion that schools can continue to operate safely in the fall with a decreased state budget is not realistic.”

The letter highlights what is likely to be a messy, confusing, inconsistent return to school in the fall, with districts starting at different times and with different levels of preparedness. The state said last week school districts can decide for themselves when to reopen for the fall semester, and Newsom suggested some schools could reopen as early as July.

Meanwhile, millions of California’s college students won’t physically return to campus soon. Fall classes at California’s 115 community colleges will likely be held online, Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley said Monday, less than a week after Cal State’s 23 campuses announced an online fall semester. The 10-campus University of California system is expected to decide its fall plans in mid-June.

Most of the K-12 superintendents who wrote the warning letter to Newsom said they plan to stick with their scheduled openings for now, but inadequate funding will affect what reopening looks like.

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The Bottom Line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 83,320 confirmed coronavirus cases and 3,374 deaths from the virus, according to a Los Angeles Times tracker. (These numbers are different from those of the state Department of Public Health, which are updated less often.)

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. Cuts to senior day programs could force many into nursing homes

Linda Jacobs, 71, at her home in Concord. Jacobs relies on the Multipurpose Senior Services Program to continue living independently. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Newsom’s revised budget proposes cuts to two adult day programs that help thousands of low-income, medically fragile seniors live at home, rather than being institutionalized in nursing homes, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports. Eliminating the programs could save the state around $410 million over the next two budget years, but health advocates say the cuts could put participants at risk by forcing them into nursing homes hit hard by the pandemic. There are also long-term financial costs to consider: One of the adult day programs costs no more than $5,000 per client per year, compared with the roughly $40,600 per year Medi-Cal would pay for a typical patient to live in a nursing home.

  • Barbara Porter of the Multipurpose Senior Services Program: “Everyone’s in a state of shock about this. What our program costs is budget dust, but it … saves so many (seniors) from premature hospitalization and an institutional, end-of-life nursing environment.”
  • For more on how nursing homes are handling the COVID-19 pandemic, check out this video and podcast from a CalMatters virtual event held Tuesday.

2. Why is Newsom’s projected budget deficit larger than other estimates?

Copies of Gov. Newsom’s revised 2020-2021 state budget. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo/Pool

Newsom’s projected budget deficit of $54 billion is significantly grimmer than the estimates of other state economic forecasters, raising questions as to whether the governor’s projection was politically influenced, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office projected a deficit between $18 billion and $31 billion but acknowledged Newsom’s estimate was “reasonable,” given the level of uncertainty about how the pandemic will play out. Others suggested that Newsom exaggerated the size of the budget hole in order to try to get more aid from the federal government.

  • State Sen. John Moorlach, a Costa Mesa Republican: “Gavin has to do some awkward things to try to get federal help, but I find these tacky bluffs a little disturbing.”

3. Ending parental debt for their juvenile offenders

Andrew Simmons in his Ramona home. He was relieved Tuesday of the juvenile fees he owed San Diego County. Photo by Lisa Hornak for CalMatters

Today, lawmakers will consider a bill to erase nearly $137 million in debt owed by parents whose kids went through the juvenile justice system. Although California in 2018 stopped charging parents for the cost of their child’s incarceration, 22 counties continued collecting on debt payments — a practice some have reconsidered amid the pandemic.

  • Yesterday, San Diego County relieved 9,100 families of over $40 million in juvenile fees and reimbursement payments made after the county declared a state of emergency in mid-February. 
  • On May 5, Stanislaus County discharged more than $6.8 million in juvenile fees.
  • On April 21, Riverside County discharged $4.1 million.

On Tuesday, Andrew Simmons waved goodbye to the nearly $14,000 he owed San Diego County for his son’s time in home supervision and juvenile hall: “It’s like a huge weight lifted off of our shoulders.”

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: A Southern California congressional seat, which shifted from Republican to Democratic ownership in 2018, flipped back to the GOP in a special election last week. Here’s why we shouldn’t read too much into the results.

State water board must act: The state water board has waited five years for a voluntary agreement on consensus flow standards. It should now exercise its authority to implement new flow requirements, argues Rick Frank, professor of environmental practice and director of the California Environmental Law and Policy Center at the UC Davis School of Law.

Pandemic offers moral opportunity: Will returning to “business as usual” help caregivers and other workers, or simply protect the wealthy? asks Bruce Fuller, a Berkeley professor of education and public policy, and Scott Moore, CEO of Kidango.

California must fix health inequities: The pandemic is magnifying decades of inequity in communities of color that have less access to health care. Here are some strategies to address that, writes Kiran Savage Sangwan, executive director of the California Pan Ethnic Health Network.

Other things worth your time

After aid became available to undocumented immigrants, California’s state website crashed and nonprofit lines jammed. // The New York Times

Pandemic food stamps offer up to $365 per child for families who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals. // CalMatters/La Opinión

Child vaccinations in California drop more than 40% from last year as families avoid doctors’ offices amid the pandemic. // The San Francisco Chronicle

Over half the hotel rooms for homeless Californians remain empty amid the pandemic. The problem? Not enough support staff. // The Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles County now aims to reopen by July 4, health officials said Tuesday. // The Los Angeles Times

Parking lots at California state parks quietly reopen. // The Mercury News

PG&E says preliminary voting on bankruptcy plan showed “overwhelming acceptance” from fire victims. The vote will be finalized Friday. // The Wall Street Journal

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See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...