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

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Marggie Castellano

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 absolutely believe that California lawmakers needs to start re-prioritizing our states expenditures to focus more on children’s programs, including education and Medi-Cal. It is important that our government provide the support and services for those who need it the most. 

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?

It is crucial that our state strengthen the child welfare system. Childhood development is critical for future success and we must invest in our state’s most vulnerable children. Most foster youth have experienced trauma and it is imperative that they receive the best treatment and care.

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?

I support the strategies outlined in California’s Continuum of Care Reform (CCR). CCR was developed to ensure that all foster youth are raised in homes with support and stability.

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 strongly support increasing access to evidence-based home visiting. Evidence-based home visiting programs assist and provide the appropriate guidance for families who need additional support. Increasing the program will help ensure that children are being cared for responsibly.

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?  

I support publicly supported child care programs and early childhood education for every Californian. Information should be made more accessible to all families who qualify for the program. Economic status and zip codes should not determine a child’s future and we must work to even the playing field and give every child a fair shot.

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?

I believe that it is appalling that there is such a large disparity between the pay of most public employees and that of child care providers and preschool educators.  I will work with child care providers and early childhood educators to form a working group to propose solutions for closing the wage gap.

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? 

The Legislature must continue to invest in education not incarceration and end the school to prison pipeline.  We need to ensure that there are more counselors and mental health professionals at schools in low income neighborhoods, rather than a plethora of police officers.                                                      

 

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?

There should be policies introduced to update teacher training programs and prioritize teacher evaluations. Studies have shown a significant increase in teacher effectiveness when teachers are receiving trainings and evaluation feedback.

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?  

I believe that we must create a system that can provide the best possible education to California’s students. We must invest in educational resources beyond the classroom and put kids first.

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 will advocate for and ensure that all children who are dual language learners have access to an education that will foster their bilingual/multilingual potential. Schools should be required to offer classes in different languages and provide additional support.

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?

I believe that we need to invest more in local school to ensure that every Californian has a quality STEM education, that our kids are prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

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 believe that California needs to drastically improve its funding of public higher education.  We need to ensure that our world-renowned public higher education systems continue to provide a high quality education, while working to lower rising tuition rates and creating more spaces for college eligible California students.

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?

I believe that California lawmakers need to enhance Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to combat our state’s horrendous poverty problem, and ensure healthcare equity across our state.

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 am committed to ensuring that all Californian children receive the appropriate mental health services they need, including enhancing Medi-Cal reimbursement rates.  Ultimately though, California needs to move toward a single payer healthcare system that ensures that every Californian can access the appropriate care they need, including dental and mental health care.

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 o n this issue and what, if anything, should be done to address access for children, including 0-5 year olds, to oral health services?

I believe that we should expand access to affordable dental services for low income families.  Ultimately though, California needs to move toward a single payer healthcare system that ensures that every Californian can access the appropriate care, including dental and mental health care.