Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, February 10.

Local control likely preserved

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers are primed to unveil this week an elementary school reopening plan — one that seems likely to preserve the current model of local school districts negotiating agreements with teachers unions, raising questions as to whether the deal will actually accelerate students’ return to campus.

Newsom at a Tuesday press conference emphasized that “we can safely get back our youngest children … into schools in small cohorts.” But the question of teacher vaccinations — the main sticking point in reopening negotiations — appears likely to be resolved on a district-by-district basis, suggesting that the state’s patchwork of school reopenings won’t be replaced by a standardized system anytime soon. 

How soon teachers can expect to get vaccinated will depend largely on where they live, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports. While Marin County and the city of Long Beach have already begun vaccinating some teachers, others — including Santa Clara and San Mateo counties — have no estimate of when teachers might get vaccinated. And districts differ on vaccination policies. Alameda Unified plans to bring back K-5 students on March 8 without vaccinating teachers, whereas the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified sees vaccinating all teachers as a prerequisite to reopening schools.

The upcoming proposal appears likely to retain local control, “recognizing that each county is uniquely positioned as it relates to this pandemic,” Newsom said.

  • Newsom: The plan “would allow for collective bargaining, allow for localism, but at the same time set up expectations that our default and our priority is to get our kids safely back into school.”

Still, Newsom acknowledged “it’s very unlikely” all teachers will be able to receive a vaccine “before the end of the school year” — suggesting that districts with such a requirement could remain shuttered through the spring.

Meanwhile, another educational challenge is brewing. Thousands of California families chose to keep their kids out of kindergarten amid the pandemic — and many will enter first grade next school year behind the curve, putting immense pressure on an already strained system, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,354,591 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 44,477 deaths (+0.7% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

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


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1. Democrats throw support behind Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at a press conference outside of Levi’s Stadium on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

President Joe Biden on Tuesday became the latest high-profile Democrat to rally around Newsom as the governor faces the increasingly likely prospect of a recall election.

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Twitter: “In addition to sharing a commitment to a range of issues with @GavinNewsom from addressing the climate crisis to getting the pandemic under control, @POTUS clearly opposes any effort to recall @GavinNewsom.”

The president’s announcement came the same day that state Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat and vocal critic of Newsom’s pandemic response, characterized the recall on Twitter as “a distracting and destructive fool’s errand.” Democratic officials have also heaped praise on Newsom at recent press conferences. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said last week, “I can’t tell you how lucky we are in California to have Gavin Newsom as our governor,” while San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria on Monday said, “Gavin Newsom has always done the right thing to protect public health, even when it’s hard.” Newsom, for his part, has brushed off questions about the recall, saying Tuesday, “I’m not focusing on that at all.”

2. Panel recommends big criminal justice changes

Image via iStock

California should allow all inmates except those on Death Row and those serving life sentences without the chance of parole to request lighter sentences after they spend at least 15 years behind bars, a Newsom advisory committee recommended in a Tuesday report. Among the committee’s other suggestions were ending mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent crimes, reducing fees for certain traffic offenses and limiting the use of sentence enhancements. The report came a day after a judge blocked Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón’s ban on sentence enhancements, arguing that it violates California law. But the committee members said enhancements, which can lengthen defendants’ prison sentences under certain circumstances, are imposed with “extreme racial disparities.” Lawmakers have already introduced several bills to limit sentence enhancements, and state Sen. Dave Cortese, a San Jose Democrat, introduced a bill Tuesday that would remove the mandatory penalty of death or life without parole for certain inmates and allow them to petition the court for resentencing.

3. Salesforce goes (mostly) remote

Image via iStock

Salesforce, San Francisco’s largest private employer, announced Tuesday that it will permanently allow most employees to work from home for most of the week. It joins numerous other tech companies — including Twitter, Square, Coinbase, Pinterest, Dropbox and Yelp — that have embraced a long-term shift to remote work amid the pandemic, throwing into question the Bay Area’s status as the nation’s tech capital as well as the future of its commercial and residential real estate market. Two-thirds of Bay Area tech workers said last year they would consider leaving the region if they had the option to work remotely — and many appear to have already moved to Sacramento in search of cheaper rent and more space.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The state prison system ignored Newsom’s guidelines for preventing the spread of coronavirus, causing dozens of deaths.

Going green(er): California officials should update green building codes to make electric vehicle charging available to everyone, argue Jeff Aalfs, a Portola Valley councilmember, and Carole Groome of the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors.

Building a future workforce: Investing in programs promoting postsecondary education, specifically dual enrollment, is necessary to meet California’s future workforce needs, writes Julian Cañete of the California Hispanic Chambers of Commerce.

Forgive student debt: This encouragement could help fill the huge gap of qualified teachers in the labor force, argues Christy Hutton of Santa Cruz’s Kirby School.


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Other things worth your time

Inside Newsom’s proposal to close big ‘loophole’ in school funding for high-needs students. // EdSource

Dying of COVID-19 in a ‘separate and unequal’ Los Angeles hospital. // New York Times

Oakland’s new police chief promises a safer city amid record 15 homicides in January. // San Francisco Chronicle

Rise in attacks on elderly Asian Americans in Bay Area prompts new special response unit. // CNN

Proposed California law would give wronged workers a way out of NDAs. // Protocol

San Mateo community college chancellor fired over unethical practices. // San Francisco Chronicle

California car sales rebounding, but uncertainty looms. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Santa Cruz is seeing more great white sharks. Here’s why. // San Francisco Chronicle


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...