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?

In the 2022-2023 Budget, we were able to inject significantly more funding towards Education. While the State still lags behind, we can keep this type of meaningful influxes of funding in years where we are not in a recession.

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?

The foster care system is one of crucial importance to our state and a particular passion of mine. I have authored bills on ensuring Counties continue to provide funding for children in the foster system, regardless of where their education or treatment occurs. I make it a point to highlight the lack of foster parents and encourage people of all walks of life to take on this meaningful opportunity to improve the life of the most vulnerable children.

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?

Parents should be provided information at the hospital and during prenatal visits, additionally, funding for public hospitals, nonprofits, and a significant public relations outreach campaign should be made to reach all Californians. Nonprofits in communities of color can especially assist with addressing cultural and linguistic differences.

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?

In this year’s Budget, we were able to inject significantly more funding into early childhood care and education. However, we must continue to ensure funding in this area. Supporting First 5 organizations, private, and public childcare must all be part of the solution.

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?   

With the recently passed legislation allowing child care workers to unionize, we should encourage collective bargaining with employers to raise salaries. With the additional funding passed this year to raise the amount provided to child care givers, this should be passed on in the form of better pay for care-givers, which, ideally, will also ensure longer retention in their careers.

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?

As a former high school teacher, I understand first-hand the lack of qualified teachers in the classroom. Following COVID, our state is facing record attrition and the folks who are staying have even more pressure on them. That’s why as a member of the Assembly Education Committee, I voted for every bill that was brought forward that would address the teacher shortages, student mental health, and increase funding to schools for similar programs. We passed through a bill that would expand the definition of school health facility, so that nonprofits are able to relieve some of this pressure.

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?

In our global economy, it is crucial to ensure that students are multilingual. As a member of the Assembly Education Committee, I have voted for multiple bills that would increase the number of multilingual schools throughout the state. Multilingual schools don’t just help academically, they also help spread cultural awareness and understanding. In my view, the more schools like these that we can create, the more our students will be prepared for their futures.

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?

Having both a CSU and UC campus in my district, I am keenly aware of the importance of funding higher education. However, we also must ensure that funds are being well spent and that California kids are able to actually gain access to public colleges. The reality is that the State has significant competing interests (affordable housing for local workers and students, addressing climate change, reducing the importance on oil, and an endless set of natural emergencies – wildfires, droughts, pandemics) and while percentages may have dropped for important and valued programs, the amount of funding overall has increased for all of these interests.

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?  

While the Legislature has increased funding for all these services, there has been a significant lack of providers in many of these areas. With adoption of the nurse practitioner scope of practice act passed in 2020, plus funding in the Budget for physicians in rural and low-income areas, we have begun to address the issue, but it will take time for the industry to catch up with demand – we have to make sure to keep funding these programs so there is an expected funding to encourage providers work in these areas.

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?

Funding for programs in communities of color must continue to be increased. Giving parents the tools to help identify problems early is part of the solution, but certainly not all of it. The interaction and impact that nonprofits, already embedded in the community, serve needs to be encouraged and funded.