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Richard Bloom

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?

California has made progress on these metrics, but has a long way to go. The improving economy has helped but new revenue sources are few and far between. My legislation providing for a fee on sugary beverages would produce an estimated $2 billion annually and would be focused on healthcare prevention programs, particularly for children, that would go a long way to improving health and other that flow from good nutrition. When this measure passes and is finally signed into law, it will constitute my single most important career achievement on behalf of 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?

The foster care system requires constant oversight and improvement.  The link between foster care, mental health, substance abuse and homelessness is well understood.  We should be providing more resources for proving following services and care for foster youth after they leave the system.  The trauma that led vulnerable youth into the system do not magically disappear. 

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 am uncertain what the main drivers of the shortage are. Community college training programs, continuing education and better compensation may help. 

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?  

We should follow this new initiative, ensure its success and then build up funding over time.  Funding for prevention programs [see above] may be one potential revenue source. 

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? 

Expanding childcare programs will continue to be a priority. The link to better outcomes is clear. 

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’m not sure that is the proper benchmark. However, given California cost of living, particularly housing costs, the compensation being paid to these providers is clearly insufficient.  

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 have supported recent efforts at reform of the criminal justice system and of changing the systematic punishment of students that has the effect of reducing achievement and leading to poor outcomes. 

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 have supported efforts to reform the way we evaluate teachers and, as well, improve support of teachers to maximize their success and, in turn, student success. 

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?   

Abysmal. 

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 have and will support all efforts in this regard. 

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?

Effective STEM education is key to maintaining California’s economic engine.  We must provide educational opportunity that matches the current and future job market. 

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?

It is of critical importance for all of the reasons suggested by this questionnaire.  We must find new revenue source for education, perhaps doing so in the process of reforming our antiquated tax structure.  

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?

See above, re sugary beverage fee.  My legislation is the only concrete idea that I am aware of that focuses on this issue. 

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 need to learn more about this. However, the notion that children should be able to easily access mental health services is one that resonates and we should do everything we can to facilitate it. 

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?

See above, re sugary beverage fee.  My legislation is the only concrete idea that I am aware of that focuses on this issue.