Gavin Newsom Talks About Education, Children’s Issues Before Los Angeles Forum for Gubernatorial Candidates
This article was produced in partnership with LA School Report & The Chronicle of Social Change
On Tuesday, May 15, candidates for California’s next governor will gather in Los Angeles to discuss issues vital to children and families, including educational equity.
LA School Report is co-hosting the nonpartisan governor-candidates forum at Los Angeles Trade Technical College with The Chronicle of Social Change, the Children’s Defense Fund–California, and the Children’s Partnership. Register here for the free event and prepare to vote in the June 5 primary.
Candidates have answered questions on a range of issues in advance of the forum.
Here are the responses from Gavin Newsom, California’s lieutenant governor.
Q: More than half of California’s children rely on Medi-Cal for their health coverage. What will you do to ensure that children get the quality health services they need, including preventive care, mental health services, and dental care?
A: The passage of the Affordable Care Act represented a critical step forward in the long struggle to win affordable, quality health care for all, but much work remains to be done. Even with the expansion of Medi-Cal and the availability of additional subsidies to help low- and middle-income families purchase coverage through the state exchange, too many California families remain uninsured as the price of coverage remains prohibitive — especially for those living in high-cost areas.
Now the Trump administration is threatening these gains. President Trump and congressional Republicans successfully repealed the individual mandate, a move that will yield major premium hikes and strip millions of Americans of their insurance. As governor, I will fight to protect the ACA — but I understand that we can’t wait for the federal government to act.
To me, the phrase “health care is a human right” is more than a political cliché. It’s a promise kept, which is why I believe we must lead the way in pursuing a single payer system that will provide more effective and affordable health care coverage for all Californians, including our children. As I did when I was mayor, I will convene California’s leading stakeholders and policymakers to develop a plan for universal access that will include coverage not only for physical, but also for mental and behavioral health issues regardless of income level.
One in five California children lives in poverty. What would you do to end child poverty during your time in office?
The fact that nearly 2 million children in California live in poverty — more than any other state in the country — is a moral outrage. No child should be denied a fair shot at success in life because of their parent’s income or the ZIP code in which they live, which is why eliminating childhood poverty will be the north star of a Newsom administration. In taking on this multifaceted issue, I’ve proposed a two-pronged strategy to ensure equal access to opportunity and prosperity for all of our state’s children.
First, we must do more to help young people and their families currently living in poverty. I understand that for children to do well in school, they must have a strong start, regardless of their family’s income, and I’m committed to fighting for policies that establish the foundation for success these kids deserve. As governor, I’ll lead the charge for greater access to prenatal services, developmental screenings, and family nurse visits for low-income families. I’ve called for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the lowest earners, a dramatic increase in funding for CalWORKS grants, and universal access to both affordable, high-quality child care and preschool.
Second, these reforms must be part of a broader strategy to break the cycle of multi-generational poverty through education and creating real opportunities for economic advancement for every child. As governor, I will address this challenge head-on by launching college savings accounts for every incoming kindergarten, guarantee two free years of community college tuition, and set California on track to generate 500,000 earn-and-learn apprenticeships by 2029 to create a new vocational education pipeline of high-skill workers.
Research suggests that nearly 14 percent of children in California will be reported for possible maltreatment before age 5. What path should the state take to prevent child abuse and neglect?
As governor, I will do everything in my power to prevent child abuse and neglect. As a father, I have never taken for granted the village that gives Jennifer and I the tools we need for the hardest and most rewarding job we’ve ever had. The ACEs research makes clear the lifelong consequences for child neglect, and the need to support parents in a dual-generation strategy. I will expand and strengthen the parent engagement strategies proven to support child health and safety, including family nurse visits, one-stop family resource centers and community schools, and parent support programs. As the home of Silicon Valley, California also needs to bring child data and eligibility systems into the 21st century, so we can better link families in need to the services that will prevent the spiral of despair and abuse. We also must continue to make strides to better support the children in our child welfare system, from cradle to career, including a better recognition of foster children’s needs in our childcare and public education systems.
California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) promised additional resources to low-income students, foster youth, and English-language learners, who face persistent achievement gaps. How would you improve school accountability, transparency, and community engagement to better support the success of these high-needs students?
If we’re serious about closing the income gap, we must close the opportunity gap. That begins with education. Studies have shown that 85 percent of brain development occurs within the first three years of a child’s life. To create a strong foundation of educational success, I believe we must expand proven programs that support the health and well-being of our state’s babies and their families, including prenatal and developmental screenings, family nurse visits, and affordable, high-quality childcare. I will promote universal preschool and equip incoming kindergartners with college savings accounts. Our early childhood strategy must also include expanded family leave because a parent should never have to choose between keeping a job and taking care of their newborn child.
We’ll create full-service K-12 community schools, engaging communities in our children’s future, with wellness centers, arts education, computer science education, after-school programs, and true public-private partnerships. And, unlike Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, we will attract teachers, not attack teachers. According to a 2016 Learning Policy Institute and California School Boards Association study highlighting California’s teacher shortage, districts most significantly impacted by the shortage were those with the largest concentrations of low-income students and English learners. This is unacceptable. As governor, I’ll develop and encourage state and local incentives to attract highly qualified candidates into the teaching profession to make sure that high-needs students have access to the teachers and educational resources they deserve.
The fragmented state of our education system has stymied efforts to fully address the needs of our state’s most at-risk students. We need to end this era of inefficiency by linking early childhood, K-12, higher education, and workforce data systems to more productively identify what practices are working and where our resources should be deployed. Streamlining this information will help usher in a new era of accountability. LCFF made high-needs students a priority in policy, but the hard work of implementation to truly serve students’ diverse needs is still a struggle with limited resources. Full funding for Prop 98 and successful implementation of LCFF are key next steps for our public education system.
One in six California children has an undocumented parent. What should California do to best support the health and well-being of children in immigrant families?
California is a state that doesn’t just tolerate its diversity. We celebrate it, and that includes all Californians regardless of their immigration status.
Immigrants are an integral part of California’s economy, culture, and workforce. I believe we have an economic and moral imperative to protect our state’s immigrants and help them thrive, particularly our students, who are the future of our state’s workforce and economic growth. That’s why I’ve defended California’s status as a Sanctuary State, called for the state’s public colleges and universities to be sanctuary campuses, and called on Congress to pass a clean DREAM Act.
Communities across California are coming together to alert immigrants of ICE activity and ensure that their neighbors’ civil rights are protected. As governor, I will support these efforts and ensure the government is doing its part with funding for immigrant legal defense. Our commitment must also include building protections for immigrants in the workplace. By one estimate, undocumented immigrants make up 10 percent of the state’s workforce, and too often fall victim to wage theft, safety violations, and other predatory abuses. I have consistently supported legislative efforts to stem underground economy abuses such as preventing wage theft and protecting immigrant workers’ rights, personal privacy, and safety. As governor, I will ensure that the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Department of Justice, and other relevant agencies are fully resourced and trained to prioritize our immigrant communities in particular.
More than ever, America needs California’s example, to prove that old fears and prejudices need not be the new normal, and to match resistance with results. As governor, I will proudly do everything in my power to support the health and well-being of immigrant families and lead California’s charge to protect all our community members from federal overreach.
A recent study in Los Angeles County found that 4 out of 5 youth involved with the probation system had a previous report of child abuse or neglect. What should the state do to address the widespread childhood trauma among young people who end up in the youth justice system and ensure that they do not graduate to the adult criminal justice system?
First and foremost, we know that the ACEs research shows that incidents of childhood trauma impact children for a lifetime, including setting them up for disproportionate interactions with the criminal justice system. In addition to the early childhood interventions I’ve mentioned above in order to prevent ACEs, we need to recognize trauma in our systems of support for children and students.
As governor, I will be an advocate for community schools, whose comprehensive approach to meeting students where they’re at, including helping to address traumatic circumstances such as homelessness, makes a real difference. I will also continue to be an advocate for prevention programs that help at-risk youth stay out of the criminal justice system, as well as rehabilitation and diversion programs that help nonviolent criminals become contributing members of society.
However, we also have to make sure that we don’t fall into the trap of treating the symptom rather than the cause of this problem. It’s no surprise that study after study shows just how debilitating growing up in poverty is to a kid’s potential in life. It’s correlated with lower educational attainment, lower incomes, increased likelihood of homelessness, and, devastatingly, increased likelihood of interacting with the criminal justice system. If we want to prevent at-risk youth from entering the criminal justice system in the first place, we need to invest in policy solutions that equip low-income families and their children with the foundation they need to succeed. As governor, eliminating childhood poverty will be my administration’s north star.
California is home to many leading tech companies, but the state is not doing enough to prepare students for careers in the fast-growing STEM field. How will you work to increase equitable access to STEM education to help children learn and thrive?
California is the tech capital of the world, but we’ve failed to align our education system to meet this economic opportunity. The state is home to over 68,000 open computing jobs with an average salary over $100,000 that we can’t fill with California public school graduates.
Meanwhile, only a quarter of California’s high schools offer computer science. And sadly, that disparity is punctuated by striking gender and racial gaps. Of the 10,244 California high school students who took the AP Computer Science exam in 2016, only 27 percent were female. Only 1,487 were Hispanic or Latino and only 146 were black. That is unacceptable. As governor, I will work to make sure every student in every school has equal access to computer science and the opportunities it opens up. Computer Science for All is an economic and equity imperative. Arkansas is well on its way to requiring computer science courses in all high schools. California should be leading the way with them.
I’m also committed to leading the movement to make universal access to high-speed broadband a reality for every Californian.
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