California’s fierce debate around educational equity is about to get a lot fiercer.

Today, a state Board of Education commission is set to review public comments responding to a controversial proposal to overhaul California’s math framework for 6.1 million K-12 public school students. The state’s proposed plan — which aims to “counter the cultural forces that have led to and continue to perpetuate current inequities” — recommends districts keep all students in the same math classes through sophomore year of high school, rather than allowing some students to start taking advanced math courses in middle school.

It also recommends delaying when students take Algebra 1, encourages students not to rush into calculus and seeks to replace the notion that some students “have natural gifts and talents” with the “recognition that every student is on a growth pathway.”

The hearing comes just a few days after the University of California said it would no longer consider SAT and ACT scores in admissions and scholarship decisions — the result of settling a lawsuit from low-income students of color and those with disabilities who argued the standardized tests put them at a disadvantage. And it comes a few months after the state Board of Education unanimously passed a contentious ethnic studies model curriculum that schools can use to develop lesson plans on marginalized communities in California.

Questions of how to achieve equitable educational outcomes — and teach students about equity — remain extremely divisive in California. More than 57% of voters in November opposed a ballot measure that would have reinstated affirmative action and allowed public universities to take race or gender into account when making admissions decisions. And when Orange County’s Los Alamitos Unified School Board voted last week to create a high school ethnic studies elective, it was forced to move the meeting online because heated debate led people to fear for their safety.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,666,591 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 61,513 deaths (+0.005% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 34,804,886 vaccine doses, and 49.5% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.

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1. How equitable will CA’s recovery be?

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock

With billions of dollars in state surplus and federal stimulus funds flowing into California, it can be hard to keep track of where the money’s going — and whether it will actually make a dent in the problems politicians say it will. That’s why CalMatters’ California Divide team built a comprehensive dashboard that shows where federal dollars are headed, where Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing to direct the state’s money and where things currently stand in California regarding unemployment, pay gaps, home and rent prices, the poverty rate and food insecurity. We’ll use the dashboard to monitor whether California really is heading toward its goal of a more equitable economic recovery — so make sure to check back often!

Speaking of an equitable recovery, Los Angeles and other California cities are using lotteries to distribute emergency rental assistance. Experts say it may be the best way to get funds to the people who need it most, but do tenants agree? CalMatters’ Nigel Duara takes a look.

And if you need help deciphering the buzzwords and acronyms that emerged in Newsom’s hours-long budget presentation, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher updated his “Newsom Lingo Bingo” card. Check it out here — and keep it handy for Newsom’s next press conference!

2. Want to buy a house? It’ll cost $813,980

Townhomes in Livermore on March 12, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Townhomes in Livermore on March 12, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

The median price of a single-family home in California shot up to a jaw-dropping $813,980 in April, breaking the $800,000 barrier for the first time in state history, according to data released Monday by the California Association of Realtors. That’s more than a 7% increase from March, when California’s housing market shattered its own record for the sixth time amid the pandemic as median home prices soared to $758,990. It also represents more than a 34% increase from California’s median home price in April 2020 — the highest year-over-year price gain in state history.

Indeed, it’s already so challenging for Californians to become homeowners that Senate Democrats recently proposed cutting purchase prices nearly in half by allowing the state to pay for — and own — up to 45% of a house.

3. As state reopens, divide over vaccine passports

Palo Alto resident Margaret Park, 91, is wheeled into Levi’s Stadium to receive a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Palo Alto resident Margaret Park, 91, is wheeled into Levi’s Stadium to receive a COVID-19 vaccine on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Another five counties catapulted into less restrictive reopening tiers on Tuesday, with some of the state’s largest — including Orange and Santa Clara — moving into the least restrictive yellow tier. That paves the way for amusement parks, stadiums, movie theaters, offices, gyms and other businesses to operate at higher capacity, and bars and saunas to reopen indoors for the first time in more than a year. It also suggests that California is well on its way to fully reopening its economy on June 15, the same day it plans to lift its indoor mask mandate for fully vaccinated residents.

As the state debates whether to develop a vaccine passport system, a Tuesday poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies found that 63% of Californians support allowing some businesses — such as concert venues, sports stadiums, cruise ships and casinos — to ask customers for proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test. Opinion diverged sharply along partisan lines: 82% of Democrats approved of the idea, compared to 31% of Republicans. But only 35% of Californians thought the government should develop such a system itself, and 25% said it shouldn’t be involved at all.

4. What happens when a prison closes?

Image via iStock

As Newsom makes good on his campaign promise to close two of the state’s prisons, new questions are emerging: What’s going to happen to the communities whose economies were built around the prisons? And what’s going to happen to the actual buildings themselves? “For sale” signs began popping up in rural Lassen County just days after Newsom’s administration announced plans to close a prison in Susanville, which employs more than a quarter of the city’s workforce, The Sacramento Bee reports.

In some cases, the buildings can be repurposed and new jobs created. State Sen. Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, announced Tuesday that the state plans to release an empty correctional facility in Taft back to the city so it can be redeveloped for other uses. Other advocates are calling for a “just transition” for former prison employees that would help train them for other high-skilled jobs.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom keeps boasting about a $76 billion budget surplus, but the Legislature’s budget analyst says the true surplus is half that size.

Aging with dignity: Lawmakers must act urgently to address a range of issues impacting California’s growing population of residents 65 and older, argue Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, a North Hollywood Democrat, and Sarita Mohanty, president and CEO of The Scan Foundation.

Changing our relationship with fire: Why can’t California utilize prescribed burns that everyone knows are key to restoring biodiversity and resilience? asks Jane Braxton Little, an independent journalist.

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Other things worth your time

How COVID-19 grief keeps a Los Angeles school district from reopening. // Los Angeles Times

Mental health crisis will outlast pandemic in Berkeley schools. // Berkeleyside

Firefighters warn of low staffing for California wildfires. // Los Angeles Times

California’s next climate challenge: Replacing nuclear power. // Los Angeles Times

One of San Francisco’s last big homeless camps has been taken down. // San Francisco Chronicle

Judge orders California city to zone for affordable housing. // Capital & Main

Newsom recall organizers say John Cox skimped on pledge to contribute $100K. // San Francisco Chronicle

California recall candidates use auto-donation tactic Trump made famous. // Politico

One person shaping the recall election? Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis. // KQED

California Federation of Teachers President talks recall, pandemic, attacks on teachers. // Sacto Politico

From up to 62 years in prison to zero; plea deal in California body brokering case raises anger and questions. // Mercury News

Two Contra Costa prosecutors resign from police shooting investigation team. // Mercury News

Sacramento settles lawsuit over law that required people to stand for the National Anthem. // Sacramento Bee

In stunning reversal, Stanford will not cut any of the sports it said it would. // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow.

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