The San Diego Unified School District held its annual State of the District Address Tuesday night, offering a platform for its superintendent to share her vision of the future.
Superintendent Cindy Marten said SDUSD is the leader by example in her plan for not just the district’s schools, but those of the nation.
“The COVID-19 crisis is an existential threat to everything we value in our public school system,” Marten said during the virtual address. “It threatens excellence and equity. Our nation simply cannot afford a lost generation of learners.”
The nationwide plan includes a robust testing program for students and staff, tripling Title One funding to support low-income families, full funding for both the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Impact Aid Program to invest in military families, and is anchored by $350 billion in direct relief for schools to offset lost state revenue and increased operating costs.
The district has already shared its proposal with President-elect Joe Biden's team. A letter was sent to the administration last week outlining recommendations that could "provide a meaningful framework for the first 100 days of your Administration."
In it, she urged the Biden administration to consider a "robust federal investment in education in the short- and long-term that is centered around equity, undoing learning loss, and supporting high quality instruction."
In light of the coronavirus, national funding would also fund school-centered contract tracing and testing programs and provide relief to struggling schools, according to the proposal.
Marten asked the Biden team to consider allocating $350 billion in direct relief to school districts over the next two fiscal years to address budget shortfalls and costs associated with contact tracing, social distancing and providing protective barriers and gear for students and staff.
As schools across the country and here at San Diego Unified face significant new costs associated with educating children during COVID-19, state and local budgets are facing massive shortfalls," SDUSD said in the letter to the President-elect. "Schools rely on state and local revenue and need more resources, not fewer resources. Many states, like California, found a way to hold off cuts until next year, by deferring payments to school districts. But that fiscal maneuvering is short lived, and the bills will become due as a result of inaction at the federal level."
The superintendent also requested the Biden administration fully fund the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), triple Title I funding for the most vulnerable students, and to invest in military families, early childhood education and a national teacher corps program. Read more here.
In Marten's State of the District, the SDUSD superintendent also stressed the importance of getting students back in the classroom safely.
“While closing the digital divide is important, the way to help our students recover from a year in distance learning is not through more effective distance learning,” Marten said.