I have always believed that children deserve a well-rounded education with a strong focus on their social-emotional well-being. As a school board member, I have pushed for expanding access to counselors and social workers, while offering programs such as music, foreign language, and other enrichment. The city can partner in these efforts.
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) Digital equity. This summer, I joined the Digital Equity Coalition to advocate for building infrastructure in underserved parts of Santa Clara County. San Jose should partner with the County and school districts to ensure that all students and families have access to fast, reliable internet.
2) Social-emotional well-being. In the era of COVID-19, children and families are experiencing stress (financial, educational, social). As a school board member, I worked to make sure that each of our schools has a social worker to interact with students. I will continue to advocate for mental health services for all our residents.
2) School funding adequacy and equity. I have been a strong advocate for increasing California’s school funding so it is above the national average. If Prop. 15 doesn’t pass this year, we must continue to work so that schools in California can return to where they were before Prop. 13. This is crucial to more equitable education, and to funding statewide universal preschool.
How will the priorities you addressed in the first question be reflected in the way that you approach the budget process?
Our budget should ensure that underserved areas of the city receive the resources they need to offer services that have not been available. In particular, I will make sure that early childhood education, library, and daycare services are prioritized in lower income communities. The city should also partner with nonprofits to bring PreK programs and after school programs into communities that have previously had limited access.
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?
We should work with school districts to share facilities so that providers can offer programs where they have not been available. The city should seek grants to expand after school and preschool programs for low income neighborhoods. I will also continue to advocate for expanded state funding to allow school districts to expand TK programs to all 4 year olds. We are finding that students who participate in TK are better prepared when they start kindergarten, but we are currently only able to serve 25% of 4 year olds. Eventually the state should offer universal preschool.
What steps will you take to improve inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities?
One of the biggest challenges school districts face is hiring and retaining special education teachers and support staff. For some particularly hard to fill jobs, I have supported adding additional stipends to make it more attractive to take a job with our district and have pushed for a rigorous professional development program so that all staff are able to offer a positive learning environment for students with special needs. City programs need to find ways to include students with special needs and disabilities. We should also make sure that all our programs are accessible and offer accommodations when they are needed.
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?
Until the state offers universal preschool, the city should seek grants to offer early education and childcare programs to low-income families to make sure they have access to quality programs before kinder. These programs can be offered through community centers and the library system. The city should also open more Bridge Library locations to improve access to books and reading. The city has done a good job providing after school programs for low-income students and should make sure that all students who need it have access.