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?

Resources for our educational system have been lagging for decades. As your next State Senator, I will support bills and budgets that put our kids first and focus on improving the quality of our public education and healthcare.

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?

We need to invest more in the entire system. We need to make sure we have enough trained case workers and a pipeline for future caseworkers, pathways for those exiting or aging out of the foster care system, and oversight to make sure the system is functioning as it should.

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 start the process of supporting parents with more education earlier and more frequently. Nurses, doctors, family clinics, libraries, community centers…all of these places need to provide information about resources available for young families.

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?

High-quality child care is essential for parents wanting to return to work after the birth or adoption of a child. However, for most people this is cost-prohibitive and people tend to drop out of the workforce or rely on friends and families for childcare assistance. This is not a solution and has longterm financial consequences for those who are not able to return to work and advance their careers and incomes. The state should provide more assistance for parents with infants and toddlers in the form of vouchers, tax subsidies or providing facilities that offer free or low-cost childcare.

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?   

Childcare providers are essential and they need to be compensated with a living wage.

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?

Just recently, the state has invested more money in schools to provide more services for schools, however, we need to address the lack of qualified professionals to do these jobs. The state needs to recruit talent, train individuals, and provide a living wage to compete with the private sector.

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?

Clearly, we need to do a better job of recruiting bilingual educators to keep up with the demand. Scholarships, grants, incentive pay, and signing bonuses are easy steps to attract more individuals wanting to go into the educational and early childhood development careers.

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?

Higher education is too expensive. Period. It should be free or very affordable. The community college system is stellar in CA and we need to protect free CC tuition for incoming freshmen at all costs. We should also look at reducing the tuition for returning students.

We also need to expand the UC and CSU systems to accommodate more students and create new campuses throughout the state.

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?  

Medical care is not only expensive in CA but difficult to obtain. We lack the number of providers necessary to adequately care for our population. We should be looking at investing in programs to train the next generation of medical providers and negotiating with healthcare providers to make sure services are affordable.

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?

We need more outreach and we need to make sure kids feel safe when discussing these topics. We need to stop the stigma associated with those seeking help for depression and educate everyone to recognize the signs of someone suffering from depression.