Investing in our children is like investing in a stock market that never fails. The earlier we invest, the better the gains.
What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?
I believe that that our children need early access to mental health services, quality education and sufficient preparation to be successful adults. I authored a proposal to require a mental health service professional in each public school to meet students' mental health needs. I also introduced legislation to provide high school students with information on available academic and career options after high school. These ideas were not approved this year, but I believe that they will provide children with early support in order to achieve bright futures. I will continue my effort next year to push for these policies.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
This year, I requested $100 million to fund mental health services in schools in addition to more funding for arts education. My budget request for mental health services did not get approved but I was able to secure an additional $8.5 million to support art education. I will continue to ask for funding to provide adequate mental health support for youth in schools and will fight for any efforts to support education and equitable access to other services for children. I believe early prevention and intervention is key and that every child is entitled to the same level of services.
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?
I believe that the biggest challenge is and will continue to be adequate funding. However, I, along with my colleagues and the Governor approved a budget that will dedicate over $1 billion in the next four years to education and childcare. I will continue to push for additional funding at the state and local level to bring resources to communities. In addition to the lack of funding, I believe that language barriers can result in the inability to obtain services. Better translated materials and more documents translated into commonly spoken languages are important to improve access to public services.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
As the Chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Hate Crimes, I have been evaluating the bullying that happens in schools due to a child’s ethnic background, sexual orientation, disabilities, religion, gender, or other prejudice. It is unacceptable that many children do not feel safe in their schools including children with disabilities and special needs. I am hosting a hearing with local community leaders in the upcoming month to explore and find solutions for this issue, whether through new state policies or local programs. My goal is to make every child feel safe and welcomed, especially in schools.
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?
Low-income children and children of color are often times the ones who do not believe college or any higher education is within reach. Understanding financial aid options and that vocational and trade schools are possibilities could help many students. In addition, early mental health services is another way to help children be successful. Children of color and low-income children are the ones who often need the mental health support but are left without access. I am dedicated to continue my effort on these issues that will make positive impacts to children across the state.