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

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Marie Waldron

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 support children getting timely care including health, dental and mental health services.  Treating young people and cultivating good health habits and preventative treatments early will be beneficial to them throughout their lifetime.  Simply being covered by health insurance does not mean access to quality care.  I am a huge advocate for access to care and increasing the number of providers in primary care/pediatrics, Denti-cal and also mental health.  Incentivizing providers and supporting local clinics where access is guaranteed and various languages are spoken can aid in healthcare decisions and treatments.    

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?

Foster children need our continued support throughout their formative and teen/early adult years.  It is important to maintain wrap around services, both in education, social services, job skills, life skills, housing etc. without interruptions so that the child can grow and feel secure in a stable, loving environment with adults who will remain with them to adulthood.   As a Assemblymember, I have supported strengthening the foster youth initiatives, including funding, education and healthcare.

I am a strong advocate for ensuring that children in the state welfare system have and utilize the resources they need to thrive. In fact, this session I authored  AB 3176, a bill that will protect the best interests of Indian children during child custody proceedings.

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?

Making it easier for families to step up and be caregivers include additional funding, available child care (for working parents/caregivers) and access to services and support, including mental health, social services, well child visits, psychologists, etc so that the caregiver doesn't have to navigate that one their own.  As a member of the Legislative Women's Caucus, I advocated to the Governor for more child care slots and funding which is at a critical need.  

I have supported a number of measures this session to increase the number of safe and loving families for children in foster care. For example, I strongly support AB 2083 which would requires agencies who serve youth that experienced trauma to establish a joint interagency resolution team, in order to support such children and youth in foster care.  

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?  

It is so important to help families with young children get a good start.  When my son was born, we had several visits from home-visiting nurses to check up on him and his health and needs.  This really was a help and access to evidence-based home visits will aid caregivers to understand their role and what resources are available to them.   On-going access, including tele-health would allow a caregiver to access resources and help without having to leave home.  

Maternal mental health can significantly and negatively impact the short-and long-term health and wellbeing of affected women and their children. To bring awareness to maternal mental health, I authored ACR 180, which was a legislative women’s caucus priority bill. It is essential that we recognizing maternal mental health disorders and end the stigmatization of these disorders through education and also encouraging women and families to seek treatment.

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? 

Kids are our future and we must fight for children to access to high-quality child care. To aid California in this effort, I co-authored a measure, AB 2292, which will expands the state’s capacity for child care services.  I also met with Gov Jerry Brown along with the Legislative Women's Caucus to advocate for more childcare slots and funding.

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?

We need to incentivize child care providers, to do this I am a proud co-author of AB 2292. This bill will expand the “Family Child Care Recruitment and Training Fund,” dedicating $6 million dollars over the next 5 years to recruit new infant and toddler child care providers and encourage the growth of new small businesses and professionals in this field.

 

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 California Legislature, along with school officials, teachers, parents and the community should work on improving outcomes for students with behavioral problems or issues.    I have supported additional funding and resources for school based mental health treatment and counselors.  Additional training for all school officials, including teachers and parents on early intervention, prevention and compassionate discipline is valuable in helping kids avoid adverse outcomes. Increase understanding of student needs for those children who are traditionally underrepresented.  Incorporate empathy, positive expectations and a holistic view of the student as it relates to behavior.

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?

In a perfect world every child would learn and every teacher would be an award winner but the sad reality is that we cannot always guarantee equal outcomes. What we can guarantee though is school funding, adequate requirements for graduating teachers, on- site teacher training for those already in the classroom and updated requirements for schools that address the needs of the student populations.   Today’s teachers should not only be highly trained, they should be financially compensated so that they do not worry about making a living wage.  Today’s teachers are facing unique challenges and should be given whatever tools necessary to ensure the success of their students.  Teachers who cannot perform or whose students are not meeting educational goals should be given additional training, mentoring by experienced staff and if necessary benchmarks they must accomplish if they want to continue in the classroom.

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?   

Access to resources in essential to ensuing our youth thrive, which is why I supported AB 2808, which will require California to establish a plan to fund public schools at a level sufficient to support pupil success, which includes fully funding classrooms and teachers and teacher/aids.   Classes of 25-35 students is not a optimum learning environment and we need to work with our state budgets and local school districts to make our schools the best they can be.

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?

California suffers from a shortage of bilingual/ multilingual teachers, which is why I supported AB 952 which will require the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to develop a process for identifying short-term, high-quality pathways to address the shortage of bilingual education teachers.

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 support increasing access to high-quality STEM instruction in our schools by increasing public awareness, resources, and access to STEM education material and resources.   Both STEM and CTE are critically important.  

That is why I joint authored AB 1111 (Garcia/Waldron) to create Career Technical Education to help young people break barriers to attain job skills, training and experience.  This year Assm Garcia and I are pleased to have advocated for and received $15 million in grant money to use toward CTE/STEM training!

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?

We must preserve the Prop 98 funding for CA schools and work to keep the funding levels adequate to cover the costs of students in school.  This year I supported fully funding the California State University system and the UC system as they were underfunded by millions of dollars.

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?

As a member of Assembly Health Committee, I also served on the Universal Care and Healthcare Delivery Select Committee to work on expanding access to care for all Californians, especially in Medi-Cal or the ACA.  It is so efficient and effective to treat patients when they are young and provide a better, healthier environment for our children so they grow up to be healthy, productive adults.  I have supported children's access to primary care and screenings, including in schools and through telehealth.

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?

As a member of the Mental Health caucus, I have been a strong advocate on increasing mental health services, especially to young people.  The ages of 11 - 25 are the critical years when addictions begin for substance use, alcohol or cigarettes.  These years are important to target mental health and SUD treatments for greater success. 

Earlier this year, I supported AB 2698, which expanded the definition of “early childhood mental health consultation service” to encompass more children. As a result, more children are eligible for the mental health services they need. Additionally, I co-authored SB 1004, which will develop a statewide strategy for monitoring the implementation of prevention and early intervention services to California’s youth. 

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?

My district is very rural and it would take a family 50 miles to find a participating Denti-Cal dentist.  This is unacceptable.  Navigating the healthcare system can be a daunting task for any parent. To reduce this burden, I supported a bill earlier this year, SB 707, which creates the Medi-Cal Dental Advisory Group to increase dental utilization rates among eligible beneficiaries and improving the oral health of the Medi-Cal-eligible population.