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?
As the committee chair for the Budget Subcommittee of Health and Human Services, I helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars in health care funding in order to increase access to health care for millions of low-income residents by increasing payments for office visits and services. In addition, I was able to secure funding for the Dental Disease Prevention Program which will provide services to low-income children in our local schools.
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 believe the state should invest in our children, especially those who have been neglected or abused and enter the foster care system. This is why I helped land $3.8 million in the state budget to increase the number of public health nurses who oversee the health care of our foster youth. We need to ensure foster youth have the support they need and that their healthcare needs are being met.
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 strongly support increasing the number of caregivers. I helped secured $31 million in funding to assist new foster parents with child care needs during the placement of foster youth and infants – money that directly supports caregivers of foster children.
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?
This year, I introduced AB 992 which creates the CalWORKS Baby Wellness and Family Support Home Visiting Program which will provide first-time parents, either pregnant or with a child under the age of 2, with voluntary home visiting services from trained professionals. I was able to secure over $150 million in this year’s budget to fund the program.
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?
Child care is very important, and I believe parents need access to high-quality child care. I am proud to have carried legislation that allows Fresno County to utilize an additional $10 million in child care funding from the state.
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?
This gap needs to be closed. The Legislature should respond by analyzing how the quality of preschool educators can be improved. I will continue to support efforts to address these disparities.
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?
More support should be given to students of color. The Legislature should explore what programs and policies can be used to mentor and build allies among students of color with results of less suspension or expulsion and start to close the achievement gap. I supported SB 607 this year which prohibits the suspension of students in grades K-5 for willful defiance. Decades of research has shown that out-of-school suspensions don’t work.
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 support policies that give our public-school teachers more support. Professional development is a critical part of improving public education and the teaching profession. We need to make sure teachers have resources for successful educational experiences in and outside of the classroom.
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?
These rankings are concerning and need to be improved. I am committed to reducing these ratios and I support attempts to improve these rankings. Last year, I carried AB 882 which would have helped reduce the ratio of nurses to students in our public schools.
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 supported legislation that provides English learners with additional supports. We also need to establish statewide criteria to ensure students receive adequate support and are prepared to participate in mainstream instructional programs. We can also support educators by giving them additional tools and support.
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?
Supporting STEM programs and curriculum is something I have done and will continue to do in the State Assembly. I carried AB 760 that extended the Center for Advance Research and Technology (CART) which is a career-technical education center that was established by a JPA between the Fresno and Clovis unified school districts. The program allows students to complete industry-based projects and receive academic credit for advance English, science, math and technology.
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?
I was proud to support multiple efforts of legislation to try and get a higher education bond on future ballots. I also supported the middle-class scholarship and supported increased funding to the UC and CSU. As a member of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, I will continue to see how a bond for higher education can be placed on a future ballot.
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 believe this is the single greatest health issue not spoken about. As an emergency room doctor I feel so passionately about primary care and periodic childhood screening. That is why I introduced, and the Governor signed AB 340 which would create a task force to develop appropriate tools and polices for screening children for trauma, within the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit. I also supported access to health care in rural areas with a $20 million program to assist small and rural health clinics.
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 introduced AB 340, legislation that will improve trauma screening of high-risk children and youth in order to promote preventative practices in health care. Additionally, I acquired $17 million for a children’s mental health crisis services grant program.
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?
As the chair of Budget Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, I funded the Dental Disease Prevention Program for low-income children in our local schools. This is just one thing that I have done to address access for children to oral health services.