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

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Laura Friedman

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?

As a member of the CA legislature, I have always supported measures to increase funding for children in need.  In fact, in 2017 I sponsored legislation to expand Medi-Cal eligibility (was not included in the budget).  Protecting the welfare of children should be paramount, not only because it is our responsibility as a community, but also because it helps provide opportunities for those children which can help keep them off social services in the future. Investing in children makes economic sense.

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?

We have seen terrible cases of abuse and neglect of children in our foster care system, and the statistics about the number of homeless and imprisoned former foster children shows that we have failed this vulnerable population. We must invest in measures that will ensure that these children are protected and given every chance to thrive.

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 should better support foster parents and also make it easier for those who wish to foster to become qualified.  Some children require “highly-trained” individuals because of their past trauma.  Others just need loving safe families.  If we can separate the two populations of foster children, we could reduce the burden we place on foster parents and attract more individuals into the system.  As someone who went through training as a foster parent, we require an incredible amount of time, effort and expensive from foster parents and many of them end up leaving the system because of it.

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?

I am not aware of this program but am certainly interested in learning more. If the program offers support to targeted parents, it sounds like something I would support expanding, especially if evidence shows that the program is benefiting the families currently enrolled in the program.

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?  

We have a shortage of high quality, affordable child care facilities. Lack of access to these facilities becomes a barrier to parents who are otherwise income-qualified to receive the services.  We need more child care facilities.  This year I was proud to support legislation which expands access to publicity supported child care programs and will continue to work to make sure that all parents have the ability to send their child to a quality child care facility regardless of their income.  Lack of access to child care is a contributing factor to poverty, and also leads to children being placed in unsuitable child care situations. 

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?

Clearly there is a gap in wages due to the inability of many parents to pay more than they currently do for child care.  In my area, a decent child care center costs upwards of $1000 a month.  Given required staffing ratios and other expenses for child care facilities, they simply can’t raise salaries at the same time as parents are already struggling to afford child care.  The state must take a stronger role in bridging this financing gap so that daycare workers can make a living wage while keeping the price of child care affordable.

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?

I’d like implicit bias training to become a requirement for the directors of child care centers.

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 supported increasing the time before public school teachers are eligible for tenure, and was disappointed that the legislation was amended to shorten that time.  I do believe that there should be some metrics or increased oversight to ensure that all teachers are competent.

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?

As a mother whose child is in the public school system, I strongly believe that the student/teacher ration is far too high, and as you point out many services which would benefit students are not being offered.  I support reforming proposition 13 so that a steadier and greater revenue stream goes to 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 TK-12 can be prepared to assist these students to meet their language development needs?

I am not an education expert and don’t know enough about this subject to make those kinds of recommendations.  I have chosen to enroll my daughter in a language immersion magnet because I believe in the advantages of teaching languages.  Foreign language students are a benefit, not an expense or retraction, and should be regarded as such.

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?

STEM program should be available in every school to every child who wants to access them.

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 coauthored legislation to provide the first year of community college free to all students, and supported last years’ budget, which increased funding for higher education. Its hard to think of a better investment in our economic and social future then education.

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?

We have an access issue with Medi-Cal even though California offers more access to health care than many other states.  It’s a shame that the Federal government has spent the last two years attacking rather than improving the Affordable Care Act.  I favor government provided healthcare through a single payer or highly regulated multi-payer system. Given the slim chance of us having that in the next few years, we have to strive to fill the gaps in healthcare coverage. I authored a bill which would have provided a tax credit to those buying coverage on the individual markets. I also coauthored the package of healthcare bills which sought to cover everyone in california, including undocumented individuals.  Unfortunately that legislation failed to be funded in the budget.

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 will continue to work on healthcare reform and access.  I was very disappointed that Governor Brown did not fund the package that my colleagues and I put forward, as it would have gone a long way in addressing these issues.

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?

All individuals deserve access to dental (and vision) care.  A government run healthcare system could better address this gap.