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

Palo Alto Unified School District

Alex Scharf

The public school system is for the public. That means providing education and a safe environment for everyone. The focus should be to improve the student’s quality of life at the school, provide quality education and teach skills for the real world for everyone, not just best and brightest.

  1. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how do you propose to address them?

    The issues are mental and emotional health, staff accountability, and professionalism. We need to allocate funding to hire professional aides and counselors instead of trainees who have little to no experience, and create programs so students have options if they need help. Most agencies have third party investigations for misconduct and problems and schools should too for accountability. Teachers and administrators should understand why policies are put in place and what they are meant to do (who is supposed to benefit). Some of the allocated teacher and staff training time should be used for these important matters.

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

    The number one priority for the budget is to make sure what we are spending our money on has a tangible benefit for the students. Whether you agree on a topic or not, you should first discuss whether putting money into this topic will directly benefit the students. Reassessing and redistributing money away from non-beneficial programs to provide a better environment for students is a simple and effective way to increase the quality of the schools.

  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?

    Preschool and child card is scattered on resources and availability. The school districts should work on regulations and structures that would help define quality programs and be provided uniformly across districts. Scholarships should be made available to low-income children. We should consider establishing and supporting non-profit organizations that would work with the school districts and local organizations to fund these programs and solicit community members and local companies to help fund it.

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

    I had an IEP and understand the differences between the policies and their actual implementation. Training should be provided to staff and teachers for legal obligations and requirements to provide to students with disabilities what they are entitled to and a system of responsibility that would ensure these obligations are followed properly. I would FULLY fund programs for children with disabilities and make sure the services they receive are high quality, not just something to check the box. The individual needs of the child need to be met, not just what the school offers.

  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?

    I would work to get volunteers and pro-bono services from members of the community to help address the gap. I would team up with local companies who offer time for their employees to volunteer. Lots of classes, especially advanced classes, are taught in a manner that encourages and requires outside tutoring for a complete educational experience. The classes should be taught and structured in a way that does not necessitate or encourage outside resources besides what the school is providing. Schools should also teach skills applicable to the real world for students.