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Santa Clara County Candidate Opens Up About Education

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With ballots starting to drop in the mail this week, Santa Clara County education leaders are making it easier for parents to know which candidates put their children first.

The Santa Clara County Department of Education contacted more than 200 candidates running for local and state elections and asked them to pitch their thoughts on children’s issues.

Over the years, the county has focused on children, but some say there is still work to be done.

“[This guide]seeks to help people running for public office to prioritize and articulate what their vision for children is,” said an executive at Kids in Common, a community partner in the study. Director Dana Bunnett said. “I want politicians to always ask, ‘How is this going to help or affect children?'” about any policy decision. “

Only 4 out of 10 candidates running in a local race responded to the survey.

San Jose mayoral candidate

Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in both the voter guide and interviews that access to affordable housing is a top priority when it comes to children’s quality of life.

Speaking to the San Jose Spotlight, Chavez said: “The number one priority we have is to ensure that we have enough safe and affordable housing. That’s it.”

Silicon Valley has not been affected by a nationwide teacher shortage as educators grapple with the region’s highly competitive and expensive housing market. The school district is looking at ways to build more teacher housing to attract new educators and is seeking funding for new projects in a November ballot. Meanwhile, the homeless student population continues to grow, with her 11.2% of San Jose State University students homeless, based on 2021 data.

San Jose City Councilman Matt Mahan, who is running against Chavez for mayor, said more childcare and summer programs would help working families.

“For our children to thrive, we need adults to do better, starting with leaders,” Mahan, who did not respond to the survey, told San Jose Spotlight. ) sectors need to be revitalized and services expanded: the city should identify suitable locations, including use of public lands, streamline within the permitting process, and help new operators get up and running We can help by providing a grant to do so.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has closed over 300 childcare centers, leaving parents unable to work.

Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors: District 1

San Jose City Councilman Silvia Arenas, who is retiring this year, said families should have access to a comprehensive system of mental health services and child care from birth through adulthood, in partnership with schools and community organizations. She said not responding to the survey showed a lack of commitment to her child’s problems.

Free public childcare could help 7,000 families in Santa Clara County meet their basic needs without assistance, according to a recent report.

We need to continue to find other systems that children are touching or that their families are interacting with so that they can receive support services outside of school,” Arenas told San Jose Spotlight.

Johnny Cumis, a former city councilor who opposes Arenas, said mental health services for children in the county remained severely lacking, despite widespread attention to the issue.

The county’s mental health system is struggling, with projects such as a youth psychiatric facility behind schedule. The school district has added wellness centers and more counseling to address mental health needs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Children’s issues have received a lot of lip service. There has been a lot of talk, but not a lot of action,” Khamis told San José Spotlight. “I will definitely work with our school to see what we can do to provide counseling.”

Both Khamis and Arenas responded to the survey.

San Jose City Council: District 3

Candidate Eileen Smith, a small business owner with mental health work experience, did not respond to the survey. But she told her San José Spotlight that schools need to implement a mental health curriculum that goes beyond counseling to address mental health needs. Schools can train teachers in mental health identification and treatment techniques while teaching students about mental health in the classroom.

“We are in the middle of a youth mental health crisis in California, especially in District 3,” Smith said. “Schools are just overwhelmed. They can’t handle all the influx of mental health issues from kids. How do we enable those teachers and bring that education into the classroom? ”

Omar Torres, director of San Jose-Evergreen Community College, which is running against Smith for a seat on the downtown city council, said that if elected, he would focus on increasing early education and funding libraries. Torres has completed his investigation.

A number of education bills were passed last month that expand access to early education. This includes legislation that allows families using state assistance programs like MediCal to automatically qualify for subsidized preschool. The Caesar Chavez Early Learning Center in East San Jose received her $7 million funding from the state last month to boost programs specifically for low-income minority families.

“We want to work with[city]staff, not just at the county level, to work on early education and ensure that the library and its programs are adequately funded, from literacy programs to computer programs,” Torres said. told the San Jose Spotlight. “It’s very disappointing that there are people running for San Jose City Council who don’t want to see the many challenges facing our young people right now.”

Four candidates running for San Jose City Council in Districts 5 and 7 did not respond to the survey.

Read the full voter guide here.

Contact Loan-Anh Pham: [email protected] Or follow @theLoanAnhLede on Twitter.