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?

The money we invest in our children now will benefit our future economy and workforce. As a mother of three, I value all programs that help our children, including education, Medi-cal, and mental health. As an Assemblymember, I would prioritize legislation that expanded such programs and advocate for more spending on children’s programs.

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?

Our child welfare system is due for significant change. A transformative approach is needed that prioritizes maltreatment prevention, racial equity, and child and family well-being. We need to make intentional efforts to disentangle poverty and child neglect and make investments in our communities to build robust, accessible continuation of prevention services. As a nonprofit leader, I have worked with many organizations within our community to strengthen families and keep children safe. I am committed to continuing to work and advocate for a stronger system.

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?

Community-based organizations can be one of the most critical assets to support these. During the height of the pandemic, we found that these organizations were the most reliable and effective ways to distribute resources and information to the most vulnerable. I started a non-profit and partnered with several other community-based organizations to provide groceries and critical resources. Therefore, one strategy I would push to expand would be to increase the financial resources the state provides to community-based organizations to reach and service these families with young children.

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?

Child care access and affordability are crucial to pandemic recovery for young children and working families. The average family spends over 40 percent of their income on childcare for two children. 71% of parents reported that trouble finding child care affected their ability to work, and 2.3 million women left the workforce during the first year of the pandemic, often to take care of children. We know the importance of high-quality child care for toddlers and their development. We must increase subsidized childcare spaces. We must push for increased funding in the communities that need these services most.

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’s childcare providers are critical to the development of our youth and the betterment of society. They should be compensated as such. The wage disparity is an issue, and we need to do a better job at reducing that disparity.  As a working mother, I know the importance of their work. As a legislator, I will push for increased funding and will continue to advocate for those who care for our children.

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?

These rankings show us the need for increased funding for our K-12 system.

Studies have shown that we get better student educational outcomes when there is a lower teacher-to-student ratio. School nurses and counselors can be an essential source of mental health support for students, especially in the post-covid world where many of our K-12 students are in a mental health state of emergency.

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?

California’s current educational policies demonstrate its commitment to multilingual learner (ML) students and an asset-based instructional approach to achieve this vision. However, the state must continue to empower its educators with resources and opportunities to support their learning, reflection, and implementation of best practices.

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?

As the mother of three children who are the product of the California public system, I have and will always advocate for more funding for public higher education. We need to increase support and awareness of the free child health screenings offered by community organizations. As an Assemblymember, I would sponsor and support legislation that prioritizes children’s access to vital health care services.

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 need to increase support and awareness of the free child health screenings offered by community organizations. As an Assemblymember, I would sponsor and support legislation that prioritizes children’s access to vital health care services.

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?

Black youth with mental health conditions are less likely to seek treatment, though they’re more likely to experience higher rates of depressive moods, according to a 2019 study. The pandemic has increased this statistic. We need investment in programs and services to ensure that more children receive needed mental health support.