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

City of Sunnyvale, District 2

Alysa Cisneros

As a mother, education policy analyst and advocate I know that ultimately, poverty is the wedge that creates the achievement gap. I know data-driven strategies and robust and compassionate stakeholder engagement is key to serving our children and families, and I never deviate from my mission to ensure each child is afforded high quality education

  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?

    This pandemic has brought to light equity issues we have always had, and amplified them. First, I would prioritize streamlining wrap around services to provide support to all families beyond what they have (variable by district). This includes finding new and effective ways to further engage black and brown families to understand their struggles and needs. Their concerns should not just be heard, but held as a critical evaluation point in policy discussion. Second, many kids don't have the benefit of a parent who can be at home during the day or can step in as an auxiliary teacher. Thoughtfully moving students back into safe learning environments is an ongoing discussion, but presents a true equity barrier. Policing in schools is top of mind, and so is the recent instance where a young black child with special needs was playing with a toy gun while on Zoom and had the police called to his home. Policing in schools, creating lower-calibre alternative high schools for "problem kids", and further exacerbating the school to prison pipeline are all at the core of what we need to address now, and as we move back into in-person schooling.

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

    I sincerely hope that the Schools and Communities First proposition passes. While this will not be effective immediately, I see it as an essential augmentation to the LCFF and school funding generally. as a Councilwoman, and with my experience on the Library Board of Trustees, I will prioritize studying how we can shift resources to support library services as a way to ease the burden on local school districts in terms of basic services. We must maintain eviction moratoriums. We need to freeze rent increases. We need paid leave and a living wage. We must treat our budget like a values document, and disabuse ourselves of the notion that a city does not have a fiduciary responsibility to alleviate poverty. Any additional budget shortfalls should be addressed with the major employers in Sunnyvale to negotiate multi-year commitments. They're part of this community and I am well accustomed to explaining to them how to contribute meaningfully to the communities that directly support them.

  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 someone who has raised a child in poverty longer than the time I have spent parenting while enjoying the relative security of the middle class, I have personally experienced this impossible struggle, without the added challenge of a language barrier. I have proposed and begun conversations about the need to streamline the process to apply for and offer many, many more childcare vouchers. Additionally, I am proposing that in new developments that childcare centers open to families of all income ranges be built and partially or fully subsidized where possible as a developer community benefit.

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

    Frankly, there is chronic underfunding to provide services for children with special needs or disabilities and their families. Families are brought into the process, but learning that your child is different can be an extremely stressful time. Extra attention needs to be paid to emotional support and stigma reduction for families and the broader community. Where possible, students with learning differences or disabilities should be encouraged to engage with their neurotypical peers as much as possible. Another funding issue we struggle with is guidance councilors. All too often these students are told that they have limited career paths or told that college is unattainable. This is unacceptable. We have a responsibility to prepare all students for fulfilling careers and work with our local community colleges and others to flip the script - students with special needs and disabilities are all entitled to dignity and the opportunity to achieve excellence - whatever that looks like to them.

  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?

    To address poverty and inequities we need a broad range of solutions that complement one another. Preschool should be universal, full stop. I'll go to Sacramento or make any advocacy call I'm ask to in order to reach that goal right now. We also need to continue the work of creating a SLDS that identifies inflection points to improve student outcomes. The more data we have, the more justification we can build to make sweeping policy changes to promote equity. While COVID-19 has devastated communities and many families, we've had to create solutions on the fly - and some of them are quite good. Some schools have been providing full days worth of healthy meals (with no income restrictions) in many districts. If elected, I would want to build a coalition to subsidize and promote healthy meal kits (similar to those some of us pay good money to have shipped to our homes) available to low income families in perpetuity. In STEM enrichment (if I may use one specific example here), students are often offered one off programs and then there is, well, nothing much to follow it up. I'm working directly with Maker Space Sunnyvale to create a free membership model (both virtual and in person) for students to have the literal tools they need to keep their interest in the art of making and learning STEM. As a result of COVID-19, the Sunnyvale Public Library has dramatically expanded their free tutoring program for all ages. I think we can build on that, both as an online and eventual in-person model. These tutoring sessions should be made available on school campuses in addition to library branches.