​NEWSOM SIGNS $6.6B PACKAGE TO RETURN KIDS TO THE CLASSROOM AND BOLSTER STUDENT SUPPORTS


Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed a $6.6 billion package to accelerate the safe return to in-person instruction across California and empower schools to immediately expand academic, mental health and social-emotional supports, including over the summer. The package was passed by the Legislature with overwhelming, bipartisan support after it was announced earlier this week.

The governor signed AB 86 in a virtual ceremony joined by Senate President pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, State Board of Education President Dr. Linda Darling-Hammond, Senators Nancy Skinner, John Laird and Connie Leyva and Assemblymembers Phil Ting and Kevin McCarty.

Under AB 86, public schools throughout the state will be allocated $6.6 billion in total – $2 billion will fund safety measures to support in-person instruction, such as personal protective equipment, ventilation upgrades and COVID-19 testing, while $4.6 billion will fund expanded learning opportunities such as summer school, tutoring and mental health services. Together, the funds empower schools to develop and execute comprehensive strategies to both reopen and expand programs to address the social-emotional, mental health and academic needs of students.

All public schools are required to offer in-person instruction to grades K-2 for all students and for high-needs students in all grades by the end of the month, losing 1 percent of eligible funds every day thereafter if they do not. Schools in the state’s Red Tier or better are required to offer in-person instruction to all students in all elementary grades and at least one middle or high school grade, or risk the same penalty. Together, these requirements help ensure schools begin to reopen as soon as possible, in order to build trust and confidence to continue phased reopenings.

To meet the needs of the whole child, the Expanded Learning Opportunities Grants allocate $4.6 billion to local educational agencies based on the equity-based Local Control Funding Formula, with an additional $1,000 for each homeless student. These funds will be used for supplemental instruction and support for social and emotional well-being. Schools will be able to use the funds for providing more instructional time, such as summer school, and accelerating progress to close learning gaps through tutoring, learning recovery programs, mental health services, access to school meal programs, programs to address pupil trauma and social-emotional learning, supports for credit-deficient students and more.

The package also codifies multiple successful state programs to support safe school reopenings:

  • Vaccine Prioritization for K-12 School Staff. The package codifies the Governor’s commitment to set aside 10 percent of vaccines for education workers. This commitment ensures that the state prioritization of school staff, in place since January, is made real in all 58 counties. Since the Governor’s announcement, the state has collaborated with county health departments, the Biden Administration and providers such as Kaiser Permanente to accelerate vaccine access for K-12 school staff starting March 1.
  • Data Reporting. The package codifies data reporting requirements, including requirements for schools to report reopening status and COVID-19 safety measures. These statutory requirements will help build on efforts to increase transparency, including interactive geospatial maps displayed on the Safe Schools Hub.
  • State Safe Schools Team. The package also allocates $25 million to the State Safe Schools Team, which serves to provide technical assistance, oversight and accountability to the over 10,000 public schools in the state. The capacity will enhance the Team’s reach, and the Team will conduct a safety review of any school with two or more COVID-19 outbreaks.


The budget package is the result of months of work by the Governor’s Office, Senate and Assembly. The state’s work to accelerate safe school reopenings to date has included securing federal approval to use Medicaid funding for voluntary COVID-19 testing in schools, delivering three months of PPE and safety supplies to all schools at no cost, and providing direct support to over 1,000 schools in 41 counties to implement COVID-19 testing and direct technical assistance to over 300 school districts.


GOV. NEWSOM APPOINTS STEINHART DEPUTY DIR. OF DMV


Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced the following appointment: Barry N. Steinhart, 63, of Plumas Lake, has been appointed Deputy Director of Legislation at the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Steinhart has been Assistant Executive Director at the California Energy Commission since 2015. Steinhart was Principal Consultant in the Office of California State Senator Mark Leno from 2008 to 2015. He served as Principal Assistant in the Office of California State Assembly Speaker pro Tempore Sally J. Lieber from 2006 to 2008 and was a Partner at Widowski and Steinhart from 1998 to 2010. Steinhart was President and Chief Executive Officer at James Purcell Designs from 1989 to 2004 and an Associate at Pillsbury, Winthrop, Shaw, Pittman from 1986 to 1989 and at Proskauer Rose from 1983 to 1985. He was an Attorney at Bendix Corporation-Allied Corporation from 1982 to 1983. Steinhart earned a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Michigan Law School. This position does not require Senate confirmation and the compensation is $144,672. Steinhart is a Democrat.


LA COUNTY KICKS OFF SAFETY ELEMENT UPDATE FOR UNINCORPORATED COMMUNITIES 


LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning is launching an update to the Safety Element to protect communities from risks posed by wildfire, extreme heat, drought, flood and other climate hazards. Community members are invited to join an introductory webinar on Wednesday, March 24 at 6:00 pm to learn more about the project and provide feedback to help inform strategies that support community safety in the event of climate disasters. The Safety Element is part of the Los Angeles County General Plan, a long-range planning document that guides development in the unincorporated communities of Los Angeles County. The Safety Element is one of several documents which helps the County plan ways to reduce risks from and respond to natural hazards and climate change.

Greater advance preparation is needed as climate-induced wildfires, heat waves, flooding, and severe weather affect communities across the state. All cities and counties are now required by California state law to address climate adaptation and resiliency in their safety elements.  
This one-hour presentation will be held via Zoom on Wednesday, March 24 at 6:00 pm and pre-registration is encouraged: bit.ly/3t8wfiA. If language translation is desired, please check the appropriate box on the registration form. Community members are encouraged to ask friends and neighbors to attend. To learn more about the Safety Element Update, visit planning.lacounty.gov/site/climate/safety-element-update.

                                                                                             RABBI'S CORNER

​                                           HISTORY & DESTINY


By RABBI DR. RAYMOND APPLE

 
The parashah spells out the details of the sacrifices that were to be offered in the sanctuary. In Hebrew a sacrifice is "korban", from a root that means to come near. The korbanot are history, but they are also destiny.

For both reasons we read the sacrificial data at the beginning of the daily morning prayers. Bringing sacrifices makes us closer to G[-]d. The Netiv Binah says that the offerings "come to teach us that we have received all our possessions from Him and that we are therefore to place them at His disposal".

Hence as each day opens we say to the Almighty, "HaShem, what can we do to serve You today?"

THE POOR MAN’S OFFERING

The second chapter of Vayikra begins by saying, "When 'nefesh', a soul, brings a meal-offering to the Lord…" (Lev. 2:1).

"Nefesh" – on one level – means a person. It also means a soul.

Whose soul are we talking about? The Gemara Menachot as quoted by Rashi says this refers to the poor man. Others can afford more costly offerings but the poor man is limited in his means and can only bring something that is relatively less expensive.

The main thing about his offering, however, is that his soul is in the offering he brings. More than this, he asks G[-]d to regard his offering as symbolic. His offering denotes that if he could he would offer his very nefesh, his entire soul, his whole life, to the Almighty.

JEWISH & NON-JEWISH SINS

The list of offerings includes sacrifices in expiation of sins. There were deliberate sins and unwitting sins. Some wrongful acts are a mistake which would have been firmly prevented if we had possessed enough awareness of what was going on; others were the outcome of defiance of G[-]d.

In the view of most commentators, we are speaking about deeds carried out by Jews. The Sifra, however, thinks that the Torah text is concerned with acts committed by anyone, Jew or non-Jew. All are G[-]d’s children and all owe Him fealty.

True, there are certain types of sin that arise out of a person’s ethnicity or culture, but no human being is excused or acquitted because of where they come from.

UNWITTING GOOD & EVIL

Rashi’s commentary on this week’s reading introduces us to a fascinating doctrine.

There is a verse that says, "If a person sins but does not know it, he is guilty and bears his iniquity" (Lev. 5:17).

Rashi’s "chiddush" (his novel idea) is that just as a person is punished if he sins unwittingly, so is he rewarded if he does a good deed unwittingly (as usual with Rashi, the doctrine derives from much earlier rabbinic sources, but such is Rashi’s greatness that without him we may not have known it).

An example given by Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah of this unwitting mitzvah concept is a person who is harvesting his field and forgets a sheaf. The Torah prescribes (Deut. 24:19) that the stranger, the orphan, etc., may enter and take the forgotten sheaf.

This is part of the Jewish code of social welfare and ensures that no-one will be without means of support.

We are assured that the Holy One, blessed be He, has a special blessing for the farmer, yet the farmer was unaware that he had done a mitzvah. Had he consciously decided to do the mitzvah, we could not have said that he had forgotten the sheaf. Where would the forgetfulness have been if he knew what he was doing?

The result of his unwitting good deed is that he enjoys a Divine blessing.

One should never do a mitzvah for the sake of a reward but if the reward comes, it is still a reward. It is always best to do a mitzvah because you want to, but if the mitzvah happens regardless, it is still a mitzvah.

There is a Biblical verse, "Cast your bread upon the waters, for you will find it after many days" (Kohelet 11:1).

The conventional interpretation is that if you invest wisely you will eventually gain a profit, but the Soncino edition of Kohelet adds (page 181), "The traditional Jewish interpretation is accepted by many moderns, that the exhortation is to practise goodness and kindness from which a reward may unexpectedly and after a long interval be reaped".


In the sense of the Rashi commentary which we have quoted, the verse may be read as saying, "Make good deeds a habit and sometimes you will find yourself doing them even without realising it, and even if you were not looking for a reward you will still earn one".


Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple


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