Santa Clara County Voter's Guide On Children's Issues

California State Assembly, District 24

Peter Ohtaki

http://www.PeterOhtaki.com

It's essential to close the achievement gap in education in Silicon Valley, and it would be my highest priority. The best way to change systemic racism in our backyard is through equality of education and opportunity.

  1. 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?

    1) We need to get our kids back to school, and it can be done safely. Sneeze guards around teachers, students social distanced into stable cohorts, wear masks, and parents attest each morning their kids are healthy. Distance learning is hurting the kids who need the most help, magnifying the digital divide.
    2) Your Assemblymember needs to bring state education leadership to fix the Ravenswood City School District, where students continue to substantially underperform relative to surrounding districts ever since I grew up here. Black and brown kids matter, and the best way to change systemic racism in our backyard is through equality of education and opportunity. Only 30% of 8th graders in Ravenswood City School District are at grade level, while 80% of 8th graders in the three surrounding districts - Palo Alto, Menlo Park and Las Lomitas - are at grade level. They arrive at high school with a severe achievement gap.

  2. How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?

    It's less about budget, and more about expertise. We can reopen schools safely if we take the right measures to protect teachers and kids. With Ravenswood, it's not about budget, it's about a strategy to improve outcomes.

  3. 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?

    Menlo Park has continued to fund its Belle Haven Child Development Center which is a subsidized preschool serving Belle Haven. Cities should continue to fund these preschool programs. In addition, cities should make it easier to start and run child care, so they don't have to do costly traffic or parking studies when they want to start or expand.

  4. What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?

    Continued funding for paraeducators who work with these children with special needs one-on-one. Full disclosure: my wife is a paraeducator.

  5. 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?

    Your Assemblymember needs to bring state education leadership to fix the Ravenswood City School District, where students continue to substantially underperform relative to surrounding districts ever since I grew up here. Black and brown kids matter, and the best way to change systemic racism in our backyard is through equality of education and opportunity.

    Ravenswood serves East Palo Alto and the Belle Haven section of Menlo Park, the largest area that are primarily residents of color in Assembly District 24. Many ideas have been tried to improve outcomes, like charter schools, yet enrollment is declining as parents pull their kids out of the district to go to nearby private schools even if they can't afford it. And its not about money, Ravenswood spends $13,000 per student, comparable to Menlo Park City School district.

    We must bring in expertise from the State office of education to bring together the community, parents, and local elected officials, and must come up with a drastic plan for improvement. Nothing can be left off the table including potential merger with surrounding school districts. Property tax revenue for Ravenswood will increase with the development taking place in East Palo Alto and the Bayfront area of Menlo Park with Facebook. We cannot let another decade go by with addressing the achievement and opportunity gap here in our backyard.