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 overspend on criminal justice and underspend on nourishing programs for the youth. This disparity has created conditions for the mass incarceration and weak public school outcomes that we see today. In order to close this achievement gap, we have to fund proactively and not just retroactively. Beyond ensuring we meet the guarantees from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, we must cultivate the talent and imaginations of all kids.
Programs to support children are underfunded across the board, but in particular, children from marginalized communities are particularly underfunded. Black and brown youth, disabled youth, monolingual non-English speaking youth and more face additional obstacles beyond inadequate public institutions. When crafting or editing programs, we must center youth who are most impacted yet least influenced.
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 support full implementation of the last resort standard of the court, especially given kids of color are removed from homes at higher rates. This disparity in our welfare system reveals the institution is more symptomatic than curative for our social ills.
I support the establishment of a hotline and online application to track the welfare of a child, which would seriously enhance the accountability of our child welfare system. I think this application could have non-literate options like color check ins or emoji check ins to maximize accessibility.
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 support developing high school programming and state-run remote classes to provide education on child rearing and raising. This programming would provide education to an audience who typically figures out the hard way, even though most of these lessons are accessible during a costly baby class. Additionally, I think we must increase the standards of guidance for hospitals to ensure newborn parents do not depart without a complete assurance they feel prepared to start this journey. Lastly, mothers in financial need deserve a basic income plan.
I hope that utilizing data from currently existing programs, like WIIC and EBT, can be a strategy used to inform advertising, targeting and general outreach.
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?
A voucher only pays a portion of what goes into taking care of a child at a childcare facility. We need buildings, equipment, education, supplies, staffing, food all funded to run. Additionally, we need to incentivize child care career paths. If elected as an Assemblywoman, I will work with organizations like Children Now to further advocacy on this critical issue.
As a mother, I know that affording child care is only one piece in the complex puzzle of parenthood. We also must improve current existing programs to ensure children are in spaces of nourishment and learning.
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?
We struggle with inequitable policies that disproportionately impact women. By addressing this disparity in child care pay, we also address the gender privilege gap that exists in California.
We must raise the wages of child care providers. We also need to make sure this increased cost does not fall onto parents. I support an approach where working class wages are increased across the board so parents are paid more to spend more on child care.
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?
Despite having the top public higher education system in the country, the serious underfunding of public K-12 education is hurting us. We must increase state funding for schools and ensure that students and staff alike can enjoy their place of learning, no matter their zip code.
I also support loan programs for teacher housing as well as increasing affordable housing options in California.
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?
AD-12 hosts a few dual immersion schools. For example, Lynwood Elementary in Novato has half monolingual Spanish speakers and half monolingual English teachers. Students are taught in 90% Spanish their Kindergarten year and the portion of English in their schooling increases by 10% each new year. Lynwood is located near a high density of Latinos, in a heavily white district, so Lynwood’s work is critical to boosting not only linguistic accessibility but also cultural competency for Novato and beyond.
We need to protect and increase schools like Lynwood Elementary in our state.
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?
Since Ronald Reagan’s governorship, we have gradually and concerningly passed the cost of public higher education from the state on to the student. Any child of California should be able to attend a public university without fear of financial cost.
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?
Tooth decay is the number one reason why kids get sick. We need to address this public health concern by funding oral care and working with community organizations to break the stigma of oral health.
Getting to a clinic is a big hurdle for some. Especially for our more remote or rural communities, we need to develop infrastructure that improves transportation accessibility for community members.
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?
Some students become more uncomfortable in the classroom when police officers are on their campus so we need to prioritize the safety of all students. We need more counselors, not more cops, in every school. There should be at least one, free-of-cost therapist on every campus.
We also need to work with teachers on a cultural shift for students. Some communities operate under the belief that you do not discuss your feelings outside of the home. With more funding and training, we can better equip teachers to identify and handle the feelings of their students.