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?

This is challenging, and something I hope to have a dialogue with your organization in exploring further. California has a unique budget climate, where we have enjoyed a surplus over the last few years but are still limited in reaching our desired goals through a number of laws such as the Gann Limit. I believe we are starting to get on the right track to reduce some of these large expenditures – including our spending on corrections through our criminal justice reform efforts, but we have a long way to go in terms of fully-funding programs that benefit our youth. Year after year, I have fought to increase education, mental health, and medical services funding for our youth, and particularly for our vulnerable populations, and will continue to do so.

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?

Since being elected, I have worked prolifically to address the needs of our foster youth population. This year, I authored AB 2189 to allow foster youth to remain in care after the age of 21 if counties haven’t fulfilled their obligations to help youth transition successfully to independence. Previously, I put forward AB 766, which has helped minors in foster care have access to the resources they need to thrive while attending college and Assembly Bill 1979, which has expanded the Extended Foster Youth Program by creating housing navigators to aid youth in locating and securing housing in order to support their transition to independence and to ensure that none of our foster youth end up on the streets.

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 have supported aid to new and expectant parents, the expansion of early childhood education and childcare, funding for maternal mental health, and have worked to expand access to prenatal care.

In AB 2189, I worked to expand access to housing and financial support for expectant foster youth. We need to continue to work on these efforts collectively in the legislature to address the diverse and unique needs of this segment of our population.

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?

Along with the Legislative Women’s Caucus, I have a long history of prioritizing childcare funding, including expanding the number of childcare slots available and increasing provider wages and access to training. During the pandemic, we prioritized critical emergency funding for childcare for essential workers.

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?   

As a member of the Legislative Women’s Caucus, I’ve worked to increase reimbursement rates to providers. I have also supported legislation to allow childcare workers to organize and have access to retirement benefits. Through further establishing worker protections, as so many of our state’s employees enjoy, we can finally allow our childcare workers to have a fair and competitive foothold in the labor market.

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?

We need California to do better here. We should absolutely do everything we can to decrease student to teacher ratios, nurse to student ratios, and the number of qualified mental health workers on campuses. I have supported legislation to expand healthcare services on school campuses and will continue to prioritize this work.

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 is the most diverse state in the nation, and we wear that diversity like a badge of honor. It is one of our greatest strengths and pushes us to prominence on the national and world stages. However, our population is still woefully monolingual. We cannot accommodate the linguistic diversity of our youth populations if we are not building a multilingual workforce. I believe we need to continue to fund and encourage elementary, middle, high school, and higher education institutions to promote and require students to know at least one additional language common in California. I’ve also supported efforts to increase funding for bilingual/multilingual programs, and the recruitment of multilingual educators and staff.

Investment in this space would not only help our workforce serve our future generations but would help us compete in global market.        

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’m proud to have supported the effort to expand higher education funding and access through the Middle Class Scholarship Act, and to have coauthored bills to provide free community college tuition to first time students.

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?  

I have authored and supported bills to expand the number of healthcare providers across the spectrum, specifically for reproductive and maternal health. I’ve also supported increasing the physician and provider Medi-Cal rates and have been a longtime supporter of single payer healthcare. Additionally, I’ve supported efforts to expand Medi-Cal eligibility to undocumented Californians of all ages. Healthcare is a human right and a public good, and we need to continue working to make sure it is treated as so by our state government.

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?

I’ve supported measures and budget allocations to increase mental health care services, launch and fund the suicide prevention hotline, increase mental health curriculum in schools, and have supported budget funding to prioritize mental health services for Black communities.

As policymakers, I believe we have an obligation and an opportunity to fund services and providers that are tailored to the needs of our diverse communities. This is an area where we have more work to do in both policy and funding.