John Chiang 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 John Chiang, who has served as California state treasurer since 2015.

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: Health care is a right for all, not a privilege for the wealthy. Californians have enjoyed great benefits under the Affordable Care Act, with millions of formerly uninsured people getting coverage, including nearly all of our kids. One in three Californians has coverage through the Medi-Cal expansion. And coverage has gotten better, with plans required to cover preventative care, mental health services, and dental care for our children. These benefits have saved millions of lives.

As governor, I will fight to protect the Affordable Care Act and funding for Medi-Cal. The policies coming out of Washington could devastate access to affordable health insurance, and we cannot allow that to happen.

This is the reason I stood up to fight for our community health clinics. Last June, I announced the state would offer $20 million in emergency grants to health clinics in response to the Republican Congress’s federal cutbacks. I maintain, as I always have, that we can’t sacrifice access to health care services in local communities.

Among my highest priorities is addressing California’s provider shortages. We must invest more in recruiting, training, and retaining health care providers in our state. We must provide greater incentives for health care providers to provide care in underserved communities and in health care clinics in rural communities. And we must increase the Medi-Cal reimbursement rate, so more providers are able to provide care for lower income and underserved communities.

Despite the Affordable Care Act’s success in dramatically increasing health care coverage, it’s still unaffordable for many. Too few people, especially in rural and underserved communities, have access to a health care provider in their communities. With a lifetime record of finding pragmatic solutions to the state’s most pressing challenges, I am committed to finding a fiscally responsible way to move to a universal system. But I’m not content to wait for a new federal administration to get the approvals needed for single payer. We have to take action to improve care in California now.

One in five California children lives in poverty. What would you do to end child poverty during your time in office?

California has the highest homelessness rate in the country and the highest rate of child poverty in the country when accounting for the cost of living. That’s 1 in 5 kids. The statistics are worse for people of color, with 30 percent of African-American or Latino children living in poverty.

California should be a national leader in reducing child poverty. We have not only an opportunity but an obligation to do so. As California’s next governor, I will implement the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act, which provides the framework to lift 1 million children out of poverty. But we have to do more. I will make robust investments in home-visiting programs and after-school and summer school programs. I also strongly support free childcare and universal pre-K that provide children with every opportunity to succeed and achieve the American Dream, and school meal and summer food programs that address hunger and food security in our communities.

But even that’s not enough. Too many families can’t afford to put a roof over their children’s heads in the communities they call home because of California’s skyrocketing housing prices. Maintaining a supply of affordable housing is key to ensuring that neighborhoods experiencing gentrification remain diverse and accessible for everyone.

Finally, we have to address homelessness. Since 2014, the number of homeless youth in California has jumped 20 percent. Rapid rehousing and prevention are the two most successful and cost-efficient ways to help individuals and families escape homelessness. Families that are rapidly rehoused are more likely to stay in a home after exiting homelessness than families who have to rely on a temporary shelter. When you couple that with other services for caregivers, such as job placement, workforce development, access to mental and physical health care, and transportation, you have a strategy that is extremely effective. That’s why I’ll invest more in these services as your governor.

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?

We, as a society, need to do a better job of being good neighbors and taking care of one another. We have a moral responsibility to ensure every child grows up in a safe home, free from poverty, abuse, or neglect. As governor, I will do everything in my power to protect our children and give each of them every opportunity to pursue their dreams.

We must strengthen our social safety net to lift all our families up and give every child a safe place to grow up. This includes parent education and in-home visiting to give parents support, knowledge, and guidance about raising a child. Parents should have somewhere they can turn to for support when things get tough, before it escalates to abuse or neglect. And when all else fails, we need to provide our foster care system with the resources necessary to ensure our children have a safe place to go if their parents or guardians cannot take care of them.

We must ensure all our families have access to quality affordable health care, including mental health care. Mental health services can help parents better cope with the stresses of life and can prevent abuse and neglect. As governor, I’ll fight to protect and expand access to mental health providers in local communities and give our families the resources they need.

I will also continue to address societal problems that contribute to neglect. We must address poverty and affordable housing, so every family can afford to live in modest comfort. We need to build a high-quality, affordable childcare system that addresses the needs of working families. We must also increase both the quantity and quality of California’s early childhood education programs and assure free access for all working families.

Voters can trust me to stand up and fight for all our kids and families because that’s what I’ve always done. That’s the kind of leadership and integrity I’ve always brought to the job and will continue to provide as governor.

California’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) promised additional resources to low-income students, foster youth, and English-language learnerswho face persistent achievement gaps. How would you improve school accountability, transparency, and community engagement to better support the success of these high-needs students?

I support the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), which gives additional money to districts based on their numbers of high-needs students — English-language learners, low-income children, and foster youth. However, I understand there are concerns that some school districts have used this additional funding for expenses not directly related to providing additional services for those students.

We need to increase funding for schools so we’re providing the resources we want our kids to have: the best teachers possible, low teacher/student ratios, school nurses, arts and music, and more. That way we aren’t redirecting money that our students deserve. We have a real education funding problem in California. California has let per-pupil spending slip to among the lowest rates in the country. While Proposition 98 was meant to be a constitutional floor to protect a minimum level of education spending in the state, it has become a political ceiling. As a result, California is grossly under-invested in public education. Proposition 30, and its extension, has helped some, yet California still lags far behind the national average in per-pupil expenditures. We simply must invest more in education.

We also need to ensure that school districts build into their Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAPs) standards to ensure funding is being used for its intended purposes, and we need to increase transparency to ensure they are held accountable for using their funding properly. As the only person in California history to hold all three of the state’s elected financial offices, I am the only candidate in this race with the experience and commitment necessary to fix our state’s budget issues and find the funding to invest in our 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?

My parents came to this country with virtually nothing, dreaming of a better future for their family. My father came here with just three shirts, two pairs of pants, and hardly anything in his pocket. And despite the taunts and the ugly racial slurs, my family never gave up believing in the American Dream — just like the millions of other immigrants who come to this country believing in that dream.

California has long paved the way in the national battle for immigrant rights.

I applaud California’s efforts to defend policies that protect immigrants, including DACA and health insurance for the undocumented. I supported SB 54, California’s sanctuary state bill, and I will defend it as governor. I strongly believe it is not the job of our state, county, and local law enforcement officers to turn into the cogs on President Trump’s deportation machine. I will explore all legal routes and provide legal assistance to ensure all individuals have access to legal defense. We can’t let the federal government tear families apart and build walls to separate us.

And we must fight to keep this country’s promise to Dreamers — like the young woman on my staff, who joined our campaign as an intern from UCLA. We were able to hire her after she graduated. Now Dreamers are back in legal limbo because of President Trump. Congress must protect our DACA kids and pass a Dream Act.

As governor, I will fight for Congress to adopt a long-term solution to fix our broken immigration system. First and foremost, we need an immigration reform plan that gives immigrants a path to citizenship. We can’t keep workers in a temporary status forever. For those immigrants working in our country through a guest worker visa, many are shackled to their abusive employers for fear that their visa may be revoked. Immigrants should have the right to report abuses from their employers and to change jobs without risking their visa status or risking deportation. We must do more to fix the system so we’re not creating and perpetuating a permanent subclass of marginalized immigrant workers.

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?

California has work to do to fix a criminal justice system that has perpetuated inequality. We need to transform our system into one that is fair and equitable for everyone, and which focuses not solely on retribution but on rehabilitation. This is especially true for young people who end up in the youth justice system. As governor, I will engage all our communities in this necessary conversation to renew our commitment to social justice for all.

California must do more to prevent recidivism and increase access to rehabilitation programs for our young people. One important issue is how we handle those with substance abuse and mental health issues, to make sure those individuals are not committing the same types of crimes over and over again and that they are working with the system to get the treatment and recovery they need. We also need to help incarcerated young people get the education and life skills they need so when they leave prison, they don’t revert back to a life of crime.

Finally, we need to make sure that when these young people re-enter society, that they continue to have access to services that give them a fighting chance. We need to make sure that not only these children but also their families are connected with the health services, counseling, job opportunities, and housing needed to prevent individuals from returning to crime to survive.

As governor, I am committed to shaping a restorative justice system that believes in fairness and equality but also in prevention and rehabilitation.

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?

The California Dream was built upon the solid foundation of quality, universal public education. People moved to California for the outstanding public schools. Investment in education paid off big returns, fueling a burgeoning economy and a rising standard of living. We need to do everything possible to look holistically at ways to improve our education system so every student has an opportunity to achieve their dreams. We know we have a funding problem, but we also need to address the inequities that plague our education system and leave some students behind.

As governor, I will fight to give all our students the rich and rigorous STEM education opportunities they deserve to prepare them for the jobs of tomorrow.

The elephant in the room is funding. California has let per-pupil spending slip to among the lowest rates in the country. As the only person who has held our state’s three elected financial offices, I can tell you without a doubt that our state’s budget should reflect California’s values and priorities. We must be willing to invest in STEM opportunities for all of our students, regardless of their ZIP codes.

When we’re talking about investing in STEM education, we aren’t just talking about technology devices and broadband internet. It also means giving every student the opportunity to learn from a teacher who is trained to teach STEM and to use technology to enhance learning and create quality learning experiences for students. We must expand our efforts to address growing teacher shortages — especially in the area of STEM — through recruitment, financial incentives, and more. We also need to be providing the training and mentoring programs that both improve teaching performance and dramatically increase retention rates.

I’m the only candidate with a record of delivering concrete solutions to our state’s fiscal challenges. I’m running for governor because I’m proud of my record fighting for creative and effective solutions to improve the lives of California families. I will continue to fight to protect California’s economy and build a better future so that all our kids have the opportunity to achieve their American Dream.


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