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?
We must prioritize children and I will advocate for more funding to protect our most vulnerable children.
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?
I am proud to be running in the seat that Mark Stone has been representing, and he has endorsed me. As you know, he authored an important reform bill to strengthen the welfare system. The CCR has done good work to fix placement and treatment options for foster children, and I will work to make sure these reforms continue to be implemented.
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?
We need to provide support and resources to young children and young families. I will support funding to help ensure that this aid is available. I have worked with an organization locally called Positive Discipline Community Resources who assist families in this very way with education and support groups to create healthier and safer families and therefore societies.
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 is an equity issue, and we must support programs to ensure child care is available, affordable, and accessible. I will support funding for high-quality child care, especially for those most in need.
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?
I will advocate for expansion of the number of slots, rates and wages for child care in California, as well as early childhood education – pre-school and transitional kindergarten. We must pay our child care providers and our teachers fairly. I would also like to work on workforce development and housing options so people can live in the communities in which they work.
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?
Our schools continue to be underfunded, and we must make a greater investment in public education from early-childhood education through higher education in our Community College, CSU and UC systems. All children deserve an equal opportunity for a quality education, and we know that investments in early education and childcare, English as a second language programs, extra-curricular activities and after-school programs all play a critical role in improving outcomes for students and ultimately for communities. Again, this is an equity issue and as I stated above, we must invest in English as a second language programs.
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?
Again, this is an equity issue and as I stated above, we must invest in English as a second language programs.
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?
I will work to increase funding for needed education programs, including special education, the arts, vocational training programs, and any other pathway that will prepare students for higher education or the job market. I will also work to expand funding for grant programs for tuition and other educational costs so students aren’t drowning in loan debt.
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 are not doing enough, we can do better, and we must ensure that services are provided sooner. Early access to these services is critical. Quality healthcare should be accessible and affordable to everyone, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay. It is a fundamental right.
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?
My family has been profoundly impacted by mental health, and I want to be a champion for mental health services, especially for our youth. After my husband died by suicide in November 2018, I became an advocate for suicide awareness and prevention. In 2020, I joined the NAMI board which provides vital programs and services to our community, and as your State Assemblymember, I will be a strong advocate for mental health resources. The emergency mental health hotline, 988, is a good start, but there is much that needs to be done, especially when suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death for children ages 10 to 15. We need mental health counselors in schools, mobile mental health care, and places where those suffering from a mental condition can receive services and care.