In 1959, the United Nations declared: “Humankind owes to the child the best that it has to give.” As a public servant, that is my charge. Every decision we make, we must consider the impact not only on today’s children, but on their children and their children’s children as well.
Taking into consideration the profound impact of COVID-19 and the expanded movement for racial justice and equity, what do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?
• First, we need to address the impact of the digital divide on low income communities that have limited access to WiFi and tablets and laptops for distance learning. I led the initiative to provide $7.1M to provide the technology needed for children to access their classes during the pandemic.
• The zip codes in East San Jose (95127, 95148, 95122, 95116) are some of the hardest hit in terms of COVID-19 cases. To address this we have increased our outreach and access to COVID-19 testing, provided over $2M and activated dozens of community-based organizations to assist us in increasing testing and outreach.
• Racial inequity is a major contributor to drug and alcohol addiction as well as mental health issues. I have proposed that instead of rebuilding our south jail, we replace it with a state-of-the-art mental health facility, allowing people to recover with dignity and compassion and effective treatment interventions rather than criminalizing them. We need a similar shift in resources at the state level—from criminalizing mental health to treating mental health as the medical concern that it is.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
In 2011, I led the initiative to adopt Child Impact Statements at the County of Santa Clara, so we understand with each budget item we adopt how children will be affected. I will now pursue this kind of structural awareness around the California budget as a state senator.
What steps will you take to address the high cost and lack of availability of quality child care and preschool programs in our communities, especially for low-income children and English language learners?
Quality child care and preschool provide a path out of poverty for many low income families. These programs are an investment that pays twice. Not only do they allow parents to work or seek higher education or job training, they are an investment in the children as well. According to the Learning Policy Institute: “When it comes to early childhood education programs, quality is critical. High-quality preschool gives children a strong start on the path that leads to college or a career. Research shows that all children benefit from high-quality preschool, with low-income children and English learners benefiting the most.”
Twice I joined three of my colleagues to ask the voters for dedicated sales tax revenue for childcare. Both times we failed to get a 4/5 vote. As a state senator, I will fight to reduce these barriers.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
Children with special needs or disabilities should be supported to succeed in the least restrictive environment with the same – or highest appropriate—rigorous curriculum as the general student population. This has been a state mandate for years and yet has gone largely unfunded. I will bring to Sacramento the political will to get this done.
Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the "opportunity gap" that low-income children and children of color experience, including lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors and enrichment activities. If elected, what steps will you take to address this issue?
As a County Supervisor, I led the creation of School-Linked Services which is a $40 million a year program that utilizes state mental health funding to put counselors and coordinators who are linked to County services on campuses so we can intervene early before young students run into issues and problems that get out of control. School-Linked Services leads to greater academic achievement because it identifies and removes early obstacles to student success especially among students on free or reduced lunch, English Language Learners, and foster youth. This kind of collaboration can be replicated across the state without placing a burden on school districts or county general funds.
Additionally, I was one of the first elected officials in the county to publicly endorse the UC/CSE A-G requirements as the default curriculum in our local high schools, creating a path for all students, especially those who had previously been “tracked” into less rigorous courses, to be accepted into four-year colleges. These should be statewide standards.