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

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Mark Stone

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?

Most of my work in the legislature has been prioritizing children: juvenile justice and child welfare. I will continue to push for increased expenditures that provide for our most vulnerable 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 am the author of the Continuum of Care Reform (CCR), the most significant change to the child welfare system in a generation. While we have made great strides, there is a lot more to do. We need to actually implement the mental health portion of the reform and ensure that all kids, regardless of their count of residence, have access to the same level of 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?

This is a significant part of the CCR. We have been providing additional funding to counties to recruit and retail resource families.

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?  

Under the new Governor, I think that we will see a renewed emphasis on providing resources to young children. Those of us working on these issues are expecting a new ally in the Governor's office.

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? 

It has been a priority of the Assembly to increase access to and funding for high quality child care. More than that, those of us working in this area know that child care is also education and should be treated as such.

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 do not treat our child care professionals as professionals Ultimately this sector needs to be brought into the mainstream of educators.

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?

Through the Select Committee on Boys and Men of Color, we have been looking at this issue. Ee proposed, unsuccessfully, a significant investment this last year to restrict this pipeline. It remains a high priority.

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?

We need to pay teachers appropriately and let them do their jobs. Peer support and teacher mentors are very effective means of ensuring quality. Unfortunately we have starved our schools of funds for these kinds of effective programs.

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?   

Until we address the revenue side of school funding we will lag other states. We are, I believe, the only state that funds K-14 entirely out of the State general fund. This will always keep us at the bottom. We need to reform the restrictive and inequitable property tax laws and apply new revenues to education.

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 support dual language instruction at all levels.

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?

Until we address the revenue side of the school funding question, many of these programs will be unaffordable to local school districts. We have tried to prioritize such funding, but under the LCFF, school districts need to make their own decisions and priorities.

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 recently have significantly increased funding for higher education. We now spend more on that than on prisons. Scant comfort though, knowing that California, since Prop 13 has backed away for its investment in public higher 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?

I have worked with the Administration on access and, especially on screenings. I was told that we screen enough. I disagree. We only reach about 26% of eligible children and as a result many do not receive appropriate screening until it is too late in their school career. I have been a part of the group working for increased medical access and early screenings.

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?

Our mental health system is fractured and too many are not getting the services they need. The current reimbursement system waits for a diagnosis before providing funds. This is exactly the mental health reforms we are trying to implement in CCR. If we can get it to work we can demonstrate that early access to appropriate levels of mental health services will benefit each child for whim it is available. Once we demonstrate this, we can apply the same concept to all of children's mental health and eventually to adult mental health as well. DHCS, it seems, thinks their job is to deny payments. It should be to ensure appropriate level of service are available when needed and forestall more significant mental health 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?

Under the new Administration, and the promised focus on 0-5, I hope that those of us working for this population will have a more fruitful partner in the Governor's office to address all social, health, educational and we—bing issues for all kids, not just our most vulnerable. We'll keep trying to start there, however, as they need our help more than most.