Public schools saved my life.

I was born in Monterey at Fort Ord military base.  My father was a soldier in the Vietnam War, who didn’t return to our family after the war.  I met him for the first time when I was 39 years old after finding him on the internet.  He told me that the physical and mental scars of war made it too hard for him to return to his family.  So, I grew up without him.

My mom was an immigrant from Panama who came to San Jose, California, to be a teacher.  She raised four children by herself until she lost her battle to cancer when I was six years old.  After she passed, I moved to Philadelphia to live with a cousin who raised my brother and me as her sons.  Growing up in a low-income household, we struggled at times, and public assistance like food stamps and the free lunch program helped us get by.  Despite it all, this amazing woman who raised me provided the love we needed and made sure we got a great public education.  That education led me to a public university, where I became student body president, and to graduate with two Master’s degrees that set me on the path to have a 20-year career as a social worker and to work for 12 years in education, running after-school programs and teaching life skills, civics, and career training.  Ultimately, I was inspired to serve on the Richmond City Council, the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board, and now in the California State Assembly.

In my life, education has been the great equalizer that allowed me to overcome humble beginnings. I want the same opportunities for all of California's kids.

That’s why I’ve made improving public education my top priority while serving in the State Assembly. I introduced a bill that would provide hundreds of millions of dollars to fund STEM education so our kids will be prepared for the jobs of the future. I passed legislation that provides millions of dollars to school districts to keep kids in school and out of the criminal justice system.  I successfully advocated for money to make sure all California youth who were in foster care would have the money to go to college.  I reduced bureaucracy to enroll nearly 400,000 additional low-income children in the free and reduced lunch program.  And I’m leading the charge to provide mental health services to kids to help combat the pressures of bullying, the impact of trauma, and other barriers to success.

I’m running for Superintendent of Public Instruction because I believe we must ensure that every California child gets the education they need to realize their potential.  We can’t be satisfied with the status quo.  There was a time when education in California was among the best in our nation.  Now, by most accounts, California ranks 46th in the nation in per-pupil spending.  My plan offers innovative solutions, backed up by real strategies, to take California back to the top.

My plan for making California’s public schools #1 in the country includes:

  • Keeping our students safe from gun violence in schools
  • Prioritizing funding to provide schools and educators with the resources they need
  • Leading the fight against Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’s efforts to privatize our public education system
  • Transparency in public education funding
  • Ensuring accountability for charter schools
  • Creating a 21st Century curriculum focused on STEM education that will prepare our students for jobs of the future
  • Supporting English learners and bilingual education
  • Renewing our commitment to special education for students of all abilities
  • Creating inclusive schools that protect LGBTQ students from bullying
  • Empowering teachers to instill critical thinking and creativity in students, not just teach to the test
  • Addressing the teacher shortage by removing barriers to entry and improving affordability to enter the profession
  • Prioritizing early education and afterschool programs to close the achievement gap
  • Providing school-based physical and mental health care for all students, regardless of income or immigration status
  • Making college and career pathways accessible and affordable for every type of student
  • Keeping kids in school and out of the criminal justice system
  • Caring for kids before they even enter the public school system

Read My Full Plan