Every decision I make while in office is driven by a desire to better the lives and improve the futures of California’s children.
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?
Housing affordability, access to affordable, quality early childhood education (ECE) & childcare, & systemic racial discrimination have all affected children & families, & have been worsened by the pandemic.
COVID-19 has highlighted the Peninsula’s societal inequities. Adjacent communities experience drastically different infection rates, due to high density of essential workers & crowded living conditions. High costs exacerbate existing gaps, make high quality childcare (the single greatest predictor of future success) prohibitively expensive, & harm the already underpaid ECE workforce.
Racial discrimination is pervasive, including in our education system. Biases begin as early as preschool, where Black boys are far more likely to be suspended or expelled than their peers, excluding them from formative early learning opportunities.
I will continue to prioritize closing the achievement gap, investing in affordable housing, supporting teachers & students, & I will always advocate to fully fund education - from ECE through higher education - with a cost of living adjustment for high cost areas, such as AD 24.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
California’s spending is a reflection of our values. I firmly believe funding for education & childcare have the greatest return on investment. Faced with a massive budget deficit last year, fully funding education to the constitutionally required minimum would have resulted in a $10 billion cut. However, the state went to extraordinary lengths to fully fund school districts at the prior year’s funding level. Not only did we ensure that schools would not lose funding, but the budget provided $5.3 billion in additional funding to support schools during the pandemic.
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?
ECE is a priority of mine & a critical investment for the state. Childcare, long neglected, is now in a crisis with the pandemic decimating providers. We cannot allow childcare infrastructure that so many, including essential workers, depend on to disappear. Millions of families could lose childcare, a key engine to gender equity, if we cannot protect these ECE providers after the pandemic.
I am committed to universal Pre-K, expanding subsidized childcare slots, & ensuring ECE teachers can earn a living wage. My bill this year, AB 2346, would have waived tuition fees for ECE classes at community colleges for students with declared majors related to ECE and child development. As the state rebounds from the economic recession, we must invest in childcare facilities, especially in high cost areas such as AD24.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
It’s so important that schools have the resources they need to adequately and safely serve students with special needs or disabilities. I am committed to working to improve an underfunded and flawed special education system in California, and support the Governor’s plans to restructure special education.
Last year I authored AB 988, which helps address the special education teacher shortage by streamlining the credentialing process for out-of-state teachers to teach in California. I also supported the Budget that allocated $1.5 billion of our CARES funding to districts based on the numbers of special education students. The state allocated an additional $645 million for special education.
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?
AD 24 is ground zero for the opportunity gap. Providing high-quality education to all students is of the utmost importance to me, and I am committed to addressing the inequities that exist in my district.
I supported efforts to reform LCFF this year to ensure districts appropriately spend funds intended for low income, higher needs students.
I passed bills to allow modernized mechanisms to apply for CalFresh and CalWORKs to expand access to these critical programs. I also authored a bill that improves access to school nutrition programs by allowing schools to use their cafeteria funds to offer Universal Breakfast. I have & will continue to introduce a basic needs access bill every year.