1. California ranks among the top states in per capita expenditures on a number of government programs (i.e. corrections, law enforcement, general government), but just near or below the national average on expenditures for kids’ 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 believe that over time, these numbers must be inverted. If the goal is to reduce crime, incarceration, and all of the negativity that surrounds both, we MUST be willing to invest in our youth, so that they have the tools needed to be successful in the real world. While you can never 100% eliminate crime, the concept that “doing nothing is an option” is a silent endorsement of our current state of affairs.

One way we can do so is through passage of SB-830, which ties funding to enrollment, vs the current attendance standard. This would mean more consistent money for schools, and takes the risk out of the equation that schools cannot completely control.

2. California assumes responsibility for abused and neglected children when we remove them from their homes. Therefore, the State is legally obligated to ensure that children and youth in foster care receive vital services and supports to meet their unique needs and find safety, stability and success. How would you strengthen the child welfare system?

One thing that must be done is to develop and enforce compliance amongst all parties involved in the child welfare process. This includes sheriff’s offices, third party monitors, and anyone that is involved in the child welfare process. Unfortunately, we cannot assume that all parties are complying with laws, rules, and regulations, and children suffer due to this neglect.

Now, a reasonable argument can be made that county sheriffs should be playing a limited role in these cases to begin with. I believe it is vital that mental health professionals and social workers must be an integral part of this process, from beginning to end, to be advocates for these children who have already been through so much.

3. California ranks poorly in national reports for supporting families with infants and toddlers. The state does invest in programs like evidence-based home visiting – which provide guidance, offer coaching, and connect parents and caregivers to health and social services – but those only reach about 2% of families with young children. What strategies, if any, do you support to aid new and expectant parents and young children during this critical phase of life?

I believe that things could improve just through education of programs that are available, such as WIC. With only 2% receiving services, it is HIGHLY likely that families and new parents are unaware that these services even exist. Given the vital services that these visitations offer our highest risk kids, it is crucial that any eligible parent is given this important tool to help give their child a healthy head start.

4. More than 2.75 million young children live in California, with the majority being income-eligible for child care assistance. Yet just a fraction of eligible children have access to subsidized child care spaces, due to insufficient funding for child care capacity. This gap is most pronounced for infants and toddlers, where child care subsidies served only 14% of eligible families (pre-pandemic). 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?

Access to child care assistance is a major problem in many parts of California, especially in rural and inner city areas. Both have similar funding issues, though the reasons for each are somewhat different. Many rural areas, while not being economically vibrant, tend to skew towards an anti-government stance. This becomes a weird, self fulfilling prophecy, where the citizens choose not to fund programs that help them. Many urban schools, on the other hand, tend to suffer from similar funding issues, but are often tied to depressed property values due to a variety of economic factors.

I believe that the state has a responsibility to care for its citizens. This means that it must help to provide for those that aren’t able to do so at the local level. However, this should happen with significant oversight, to assure these funds are used for their intended purpose, to enrich the lives of children who might not otherwise be able to receive child care assistance.

5. The average salary of a California public employee is nearly $87,000, while the average salary of a California child care provider is $35,400, and most other professionals who work with kids are also below the public employee average. What are your ideas, if any, about responding to this disparity?   

California is an expensive state to live, work and play. The idea that a child care provider can live off of $35,000 per year is ludicrous. Furthermore, as of 2020, 1 out of every 3 child care workers in the United States experienced hunger. While no one in such a wealthy country should go hungry, a high energy job, with workers that literally holds our future in their hands seems like one of the worst possible places for hunger to be such a prevalent issue.

We MUST look at all aspects of the child care and education experience as an investment in our future. This answer may mirror others in this survey, but we must spend money to build the future of California.

6. The latest available data shows California ranks 49th among the 50 states in teacher-to-student ratio, 47th in school counselors, and 46th in school administrators. We also rank near the bottom in terms of school nurses, with approximately one nurse for every 2,400 students and no nurses at all in some smaller counties. What are your thoughts on these rankings, and what, if anything, should be done in response?

California has the 5th or 6th largest economy in the world, and the only state with a WORSE teacher-student ratio is Arizona. This means such educational hotbeds as Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana rank higher. This leads to worse outcomes, higher crime, and a stagnant economy.

Furthermore, there are numerous problems with a lack of nurses in schools. While many think of this as someone to help when a child gets a sprain, cut, or scratch. However, these individuals are on the front lines in cases of child abuse and neglect. School nurses are vital advocates for children, and must be made available in any school.

We need to take education seriously. I recently did an interview with a local paper, and the reporter talked about our high spend per pupil. That’s true. However, our income and wealth base is higher than nearly anywhere else in the country. The money is there. Our priorities must be our youth, and our future.

7. 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 should the State 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?

My wife and I recently hosted a Colombian boy, with the intent to adopt. While we had a great time, one of my biggest sources of frustration was the language barrier. Neither my wife or I speak Spanish with any fluency, and the child did not speak English. I have never wished more that I chose to learn Spanish in high school vs French.

Why do I state this? Our state is HEAVILY influenced by our neighbors from Central and South America. Those that are multilingual will have a significant advantage over those that don’t, if we choose to cultivate it. This means offering multilingual coursework for our full population. And yes, this means further investment in our schools.

8. Over the past 40 years, state spending on higher education has dropped from 18% to 12% of the state budget. What is your position on funding for public higher education?

We must continue to work to make higher education accessible to all people, both through traditional college and universities, as well as through a robust network of training/apprenticeship programs in well paying blue-collar work.

This means we must spend appropriately to make that vision happen. Is 18% the answer? Not necessarily. I believe that our schools must spend available funds wisely, and oversight must take place to assure this is true. However, as I have said many times over… education is an investment, and I will be more than happy to advocate for further funding where current investment comes up short.

9. 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 important childhood screenings, especially for children of color. In addition, many California children lack access to oral health care, vision services, hearing aids, and mental health and substance abuse supports and services. What would you do, if anything, to increase access to these services?  

We must attract workers to high risk areas through competitive pay, subsidized by the state where necessary. Our medical and social services professionals are extremely thoughtful and willing to work miracles, but must be given reasonable resources to do so.

It’s no surprise that children of color bear the brunt of the lack of access. These communities have historically been underfunded and all people in these communities suffer for it. Furthermore, these same parents are most often the ones working multiple jobs and don’t have the time or resources to provide expanded health care. By meeting these students where they are, through after school programs, overburdened parents can spend less on child care, while their children receive vital health care services to get them started on the right foot.

10. The suicide rate among Black youth has dramatically increased in recent years. In addition, Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) among youth have grown, but only about one third of youth with an MDE received treatment. What should be done to ensure that more children receive needed mental health supports and services?

Same as the question above, this is an issue of our communities of color being historically underfunded. We must do more to attract talent to these communities, and this means offering additional investment in these underserved communities.

Furthermore, training for educators and faculty to spot these sorts of issues before they have a chance to get worse would be a great way to get resources to those exhibiting symptoms.