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?
Clearly these priorities are underfunded. However, I am proud that my colleagues and I have worked to restore many of the cuts to education and Medi-Cal that were made during the recession years and will continue to work to increase funding for these critical programs for children.
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?
We have made some significant strides as a state to increase support for foster children but we need to do more. Education and wrap around services are critical for children to succeed in the state's child welfare system.
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?
Budget cuts are always at the root of declining quality of services. Making sure that funds are available to support training and fair wages will be key to improving the quality of care and outcomes for children in foster care.
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?
I support evidence-based home visits. Even though these programs only reach 2% now we can build upon the success of these program and expand as funding becomes available.
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?
Again, funding is the key. As Speaker, I worked with my colleagues to increase funding for child care to pre-recession levels. We are only now digging our way out of massive budget cuts that devasted these programs. I pledge to continue to work to fund new sources of funding to support funding for high quality child care programs.
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?
We need to work to build broad and lasting public support for increasing funding and programmatic support for preschool educators and child care providers.
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?
We've worked hard to address the suspension issue and have succeeded in a number of progressive proposal to reform sentencing and integrate more restorative justice principles in the criminal justice system.
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?
Teacher retention is an important initiative to take on. Keeping teachers under the current system is difficult and we need to do a better job preparing and supporting new teachers and more teachers retire out of the system.
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 should continue find ways to feasibly reduce class size and increase student support staff.
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 TK-12 can be prepared to assist these students to meet their language development needs?
I am pleased that California recently repealed restrictions on bilingual education. As California increases in population diversity and our policies improve access to affordable higher education, the hope is that we will produce more educators prepared to meet the needs of students that speak and read English as a second language.
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?
We need to find and allocate more funding to increase access to high-quality STEM and STEAM instruction in our schools.
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?
We don't allocate enough funding for higher education...but we are working to change that by making smart fiscal decisions and driving an economy that will produce the revenues that can support expanded access to quality higher education.
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?
Access is a function of funding. Low reimbursement rates reduces the number of providers that are available to see patients. In addition, other factors reduce access such as employment, transportation and housing. We need to work on comprehensive reforms to structurally improve access and stable and scalable funding for the primary care and children's health.
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?
EPSDT is critical to ensuring early intervention and management of mental health conditions before they become severe. Democrats in the Legislature have been strong advocates to protect funding for EPSDT even though much of the public is not aware of the program or its impact on child mental health. I will continue to work to support this program in the state budget.
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?
Denti-Cal was severely reduced during the state's recession. We've made major strides to restore funding and will continue to make this a priority in the state budget such that we can eventually access for children, including 0-5 year-olds, to oral health services.