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

Palo Alto Unified School District

Karna Nisewaner

Inspiring Education for All Students

  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 Getting kids, particularly young kids, back to school as safety as possible. Other districts have brought students back on campus in a way that was acceptable for teachers and I believe we can too. Young children learn best face to face.
    #2 Providing an excellent education to all students, whether online or in person. We have all ventured into unknown territory with online learning. We need to adopt a culture of adaptability and flexibility to continue to reiterate on our online learning programs
    #3 Providing childcare and food to families who need it

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

    2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. It's been a difficult year financially and will probably continue to be for the next few years. Tough financial situations force us to focus on basics, and the programs that have the most impact. I believe the biggest impact can be made at the elementary levels, to help kids start off on a more even footing.

  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?

    From my work on the Board of Palo Alto Community Child Care, I know that all it is predicted that by year-end, more than 50% of the nation's early education child care providers will close permanently due to lack of funding. Families are already struggling, and children are losing out on essential learning and socialization opportunities. Child care and early education are essential needs in our community. We need to urge local, state and federal leaders to prioritize funding and support for child care before it is too late.

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

    I think that the best thing we can do is collect more granular information about the abilities of students. This starts with assessments that accurately reflect the skills of students. With more information general and special education improvement teams to work together to best support the student. I have seen this in practice and know that with time and attention we can make a difference.

  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?

    Some students of color, like Indian Americans, perform at higher academic levels than white students, thus the achievement gap is connected more to socioeconomic status than skin color. PAUSD has been focusing on raising the academic performance of low income children for years and has not made headway. Some schools with large percentages of low income students perform at higher levels than PAUSD students. We can learn from their three pillars of high academic performance: build a culture of high expectations among their team; use student achievement data to improve teaching; and coach teachers to engage students in challenging lessons. We need to start with kids as early as possible.