National, state, and local research, policy and advocacy to improve the lives of kids

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Ana Caballero

Questions

 

1. California ranks among the top states in per capita expenditures on a number of government programs, but below the national average on expenditures for children’s programs, including education and Medi-Cal. What are your thoughts on this prioritization of expenditures and what, if any, changes would you make in this regard?

I want to be careful about taking away from Peter to pay Paul. I would like to better understand the programs that we spend a lot of money on before pushing to shift funds. There are multiple areas where I would like to see more money spent, like on the disabled, like on foster expenses for folks who are over 18. Having said that, I am a total believer in spending money on ECE and support for families with small children.

2. When children who have been neglected or abused enter foster care, the state becomes their legal parent, and bears responsibility for their care and supervision and to ensure they have the opportunity to heal and thrive. What is your position on the need for strengthening the child welfare system?

I have dealt extensively with kids who have been in foster care. I think that we need to take a long and scientific look at what works in every aspect of the foster care system so that we can overhaul that system and establish better practices. That will not be cheap but needs to be done.

3. California has a significant shortage of highly-trained and well-supported caregivers to open their homes to children who have been abused and neglected and enter foster care. What strategies would you support, if any, to increase the number of safe and loving families for children in foster care?

We need to find a way to dramatically reduce the time that it takes for California to finish the process of deciding between the (preferred) option of placing kids with biological relatives and that of making them available for adoption. Too many kids spend way to long in foster care limbo and it damages them greatly.

4. California committed state dollars for the first time this year to evidenced-based home visiting programs, yet they will still reach only 2% of families with young children. What are your thoughts on increasing access to evidence-based home visiting? What other strategies, if any, do you support to aid new and expectant parents and young children during this critical phase of life?

One strategy would be to increase use of peer to peer support programs so that we can expand the impact of this program while not exploding the cost. This could draw on the Promotores de Salud model.

5. Sixty-two percent of the state’s children are born into low-income households, yet only 14% of income-eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in a publicly-supported child care program.  What is your position on this issue, and what, if anything, should be done to ensure that all families have access to high-quality child care? 

My position is that we need to have as many high quality childcare programs as possible. If the state is going to invest money into these programs it should be both demanding and facilitating a process where the programs provide ECE, as opposed to just babysitting.

6. The average salary of a California public employee is over $81,000. The average salary of a California preschool educator is just over $34,000, and that of a child care provider is just over $26,000. What are your ideas, if any, about responding to this disparity?

The real issue is that the state treats this as just childcare. We need a statewide curriculum and teacher credentialing and classrooms in order to move to a universal pre-school model. That is very expensive. We need to start building the infrastructure to support that, and to professionalize the informal small businesses that provide much of the childcare in the state.

7. Students of color are more likely to be suspended and expelled, which contributes to significant achievement gaps and ultimately the pipeline from school to prison. What are your thoughts on how the Legislature should respond to this issue?

My position is that kids with behavioral issues in class often have a learning disability. When they do not get the attention that they need for their learning disability they become behavioral problems, and they are suspended or expelled rather than getting the resources that they need. The question is, are we really going to fund the IEP’s that the law requires. There have to be alternatives for children who have behavioral issues other than suspension and expulsion. That requires special training, aides, and other resources.

8. Educational research highlights the strong correlation between student success and teacher quality. What changes to state policy would you support, if any, to help ensure that every public school teacher is effective?

I think that mentoring and team teaching is the key to supporting and improving teaching. Too often it is the least experienced teachers who have the toughest classes. Most teachers whom I meet are competent, but they need support, resources, aides in the classroom and schools that encourage and enable parents to be involved in their childrens’ education.

9. California nationally ranks 50th in class size, 50th in school librarians, 49th in school counselors and 47th in school administrators. What are your thoughts on these rankings, based on staff to student ratios, and what, if anything, should be done in response?

We are spending more in this state on a per student basis than we ever have. We leave it to the schools to decide how they spend that money. I tend to think that what the schools need are people with medical and mental health training. I continue to support smaller class sizes for our schools.

10. California has the highest percentage of kids who are dual language learners, ages 0-5, (60%) and school-age English learners (21%) in the country. How will you support these students’ bilingual/multilingual potential? What are your thoughts on how educators in early education and K-12 can be prepared to assist these students to meet their language development needs?

I am a big supporter of true bilingual education and those dual immersion programs are the way that I think that the state should go for all students.

11. In the last decade, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs in California grew by 19% and currently represent 7 of the 10 fastest growing occupations. Yet many high schools don’t offer the STEM courses needed for college or STEM careers, such as calculus, physics and chemistry. What are your thoughts on the need to support and increase access to high-quality STEM instruction in our schools?

This is a particular problem in rural California, where the schools are often smaller, have less access to community and financial resources and often have limited access for the schools and the students at home to high speed internet. I support funding for STEM classes for students throughout the state to access these courses.

12. Over the past 40 years, total state spending on higher education has declined by 6%, dropping from 18% to 12% of the state budget. There are an increasing number of students graduating from high school and eligible for college enrollment. What is your position on funding for public higher education?

I support it, it is all a question of setting priorities. This year we focused on subsidizing the first year of community college. I would like to see the data on that, and I am hoping that we will go for the second year next year.

13. Over 55% of California’s kids are enrolled in Medi-Cal, but California performs near the bottom amongst all state Medicaid programs when it comes to children’s access to primary care physicians and periodic childhood screenings, especially for children of color. What are your thoughts on this issue?

One big problem is lack of MedicAid-accepting medical providers, particularly in rural areas. One way to deal with this is to look at allowing medical professionals to practice to the full extent of their certification and training. With appropriate training and supervision, for example, nurses could set up clinics and do much of the work of primary medical care.

14. Less than 5% of children eligible for specialty mental health services under the early & periodic screening diagnosis & treatment (EPSDT) Medi-Cal benefit actually receive any service. What is your position on this issue and what, if anything, should be done to ensure that more eligible children receive mental health care?

I do not know how that program works or how it is accessed. I would be happy to learn more and to work on addressing this issue.

15. Despite the fact that the top reason children miss school in California is due to preventable oral health problems, millions of children in the state lack access to dental services. What is your position on this issue and what, if anything, should be done to address access for children, including 0-5 year olds, to oral health services?

It should be part of the healthcare program. Nurses could be doing early diagnosis of those issues, but we need a medical system that treats the whole person.