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

San Jose Unified School District, Area 3

Carla Drina Collins

Stronger schools mean stronger neighborhoods. No matter who we are or where we live, it is good for all of us to ensure our students have what they need to thrive. I am a lifelong feminist, progressive Democrat and Mom who believes quality public education is essential to democracy.

  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. Quality distance learning and safely getting students and staff back to campus.
    2. The digital divide.
    3. Addressing the social-emotional needs of students and families.
    I'll address all these issues using an equity lens with decision making. This demands data to inform decisions and demonstrate results of strategic efforts. Distance learning is not the preferred way for instruction to happen, yet it is safest. I'll work to ensure that teachers have the tools and training they need to do their best work. I'll do the same for students.
    COVID19 did not create the digital just amplified it. We must partner with city, County, State, and private partners to ensure that every child has access to both good devices and strong, reliable internet.
    These are also difficult, draining times for adults and children. I prioritize services to meet the mental health needs of students, support outreach in a variety of ways to connect students and families to services.

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

    A budget reflects our values and priorities. As such, I will fund training and resources for teachers and students to fully utilize distance learning tools. I also will not cut contracts that support wellness or support students' emotional health. I work in partnership with our city, County, State and advocate to close the digital divide and adequately address infrastructure issues.

  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?

    As the mother of three I know how incredibly expensive quality childcare and preschool programs are. And yet, they are essential to working families and the benefits for children are well documented. This is another example of an issue that cannot be placed on the backs of the most vulnerable. We must partner with the city, County, and State to provide free and reduced cost quality childcare and preschool programs. Federal and State COVID19 relief must be fully explored to cover some of these costs, too.

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

    Our special ed population have unique needs that cannot be pitted against other populations in our community. Our data shows us that we have more work to do to better support our special ed kids.

    Many, if not most, special education assessments - particularly initial ones - were put on hold during COVID. Even with valid reasons - we’re in a pandemic - we need to plan, focus, and prioritize these kids and their assessments. I support and believe we need to continue to show good faith with 504 accommodations, collect data on what works & what doesn’t so that when we can get back to the doing IEPs that are not possible right now during the pandemic, then we have a base of information to better serve the students, too.

    Parents, particularly those who speak a second language in the home, need more support from our District to understand their IEPs, the IEP process, and their child’s transition options, especially as students transition to adulthood.

  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?

    The pandemic is deepening the chasm between those who have and those who do not. A person’s demographics or zip code should not determine their destiny. By using an equity lens in decision making we can ensure that we will not place the burden of the budget and the services the budget provides on the backs of our most vulnerable. By working in partnership with the City, County, State, private partners, and our families, we can better meet the needs of the whole family so that children enter the classroom safe, rested, and ready to learn. Using an equity lens allows us to address systemic racism (and other “isms”) and to create a supportive space where students can thrive.