California schools have money. What ails them? + Call him Judge Chau + Watching omicron variant

·5 min read
Daniel Kim

Good morning and welcome to the A.M. Alert!


State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is set to appear Tuesday morning before a joint hearing of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance and the Assembly Education Committee.

The topic of Tuesday’s hearing: Learning loss, chronic absenteeism and enrollment loss in California’s schools.

Flush with money from federal COVID relief programs and the state’s surplus, California schools aren’t particularly worried about their budgets. Instead, they face a range of complicated challenges related to the long-running pandemic.

“For the first time in a generation, California’s public education system is not experiencing a funding crisis. Instead, on the heels of a global pandemic that led California’s public schools to physically close for a significant portion of the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years, schools across the state appear to have a student engagement crisis. The wellbeing of our students is at risk,” according to the hearing agenda.

According to the agenda, student enrollment and attendance in California’s K-12 schools has dropped precipitously statewide.

“The purpose of this hearing is to review the data and implications of the continuing student engagement crises. Hearing testimony will examine the investments to date supporting student learning recovery and school climate transformation. The implications of continuing student enrollment and attendance cliffs will have multi-year, if not permanent impacts on education systems, finance, student performance, and child wellbeing. The Assembly’s priority will be supporting student recovery from this pandemic while stabilizing school systems,” according to the agenda.

Also set to appear at Tuesday’s hearing are Edgar Cabral of the Legislative Analyst’s Office, Hedy Chang of Attendance Works, Matt Navo of the California Collaborative for Education Excellence, Kyla Johnson-Trimmell of the Oakland Unified School District, Mike Fine of the Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team, Mandy Corbin of the Sonoma County Office of Education and Lamont Jackson of the San Diego Unified School District.

Linda Darling-Hammond, president of the State Board of Education, is also set to appear at the hearing.

The hearing starts at 10 a.m. in Room 4202 of the Capitol. You can view the agenda for yourself by visiting here.


Welcome to the bench, your honor.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that he is naming Assemblyman Edwin Chau, D-Arcadia, to the bench in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Chau has served in the Assembly since 2012, and is currently the assistant majority leader; prior to that, Chau sat on the board of the Montebello Unified School District.

He replaces retiring Judge Robert J. Perry on the bench.

Chau has a juris doctorate from Southwestern University School of Law.

Born in Hong Kong, Chau grew up in Los Angeles, according to his Assembly biography.

His signature pieces of legislation include the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 (of which he was a co-author), as well as laws requiring businesses and government agencies to provide notice of a breach to California residents’ privacy in the event that encrypted data and the keys to said encryption are breached.

He previously served a decade as a judge pro tem for the Los Angeles County Superior Court.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, weighed in on the appointment with the following statement Tuesday afternoon:

“Ed Chau has been a dependable member of my leadership team and a stalwart on several committees. His work on privacy and consumer protection has helped push California into a leading role in this policy area. I congratulate him and know that his tenure on the bench will enhance the courts.”


Last week, the World Health Organization announced a new COVID-19 “variant of concern” that it dubbed omicron. Anthony Fauci, one of the top U.S. infectious disease experts, warned that omicron would “inevitably” come to America, despite federal travel bans intended to prevent that from happening.

Meanwhile, in California, Gov. Newsom used the occasion over the holiday weekend to urge state residents to get their COVID-19 booster.

“California is monitoring the new variant from Southern Africa closely. We will continue to be guided by data and science. Right now, the best way we know to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and get your booster. Go today. Don’t wait,” Newsom wrote in a tweet.

Though New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has declared a state of emergency over the new variant, Newsom thus far has held off from taking any special action on the subject. It’s worth noting that parts of California’s COVID-19 state of emergency have been extended to March of 2022, as reported by CalMatters.


“Jack Dorsey now has time to train to be the next civilian in space.”

- Democratic strategist Michael Trujillo, via Twitter.

Best of the Bee:

  • A former SEIU Local 1000 official was suspended from his CalPERS IT job without pay for six months after the pension system determined he didn’t do any work while claiming he was on a coronavirus contact tracing assignment, according to a disciplinary notice, via Wes Venteicher.

  • With hundreds of billions of dollars in federal grants up for grabs under the infrastructure law President Joe Biden signed this month, mayors from Sacramento to Miami-Dade are anxiously seeking face time with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, a former mayor who could green-light their pet projects, via Bryan Lowry and Douglas Hanks.

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