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

Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District Govering Board

Esmeralda Ortiz

Success is Collaborative. Education is Generational. Families, schools, and community members must work together to provide students with a quality education that yields the generational impact we want for all children and families. Education should be a transformative experience that empowers children to define their success.

  1. In a recent poll by Choose Children 2022 of likely general election voters, more than half of parents with children under age 18 say they are likely to move out of the Bay Area in the next few years. What do you think are the top three issues affecting our children and families and how will you make our region a place where all families can thrive?

    Affordable housing, student wellness, and inequitable access to information needed for postsecondary education are three issues affecting children and families, especially after the pandemic. Affordable housing requires collaboration with local government and advocacy for the most under resourced families. Student wellness must be addressed in diverse ways through systemic changes for those in high-pressure environments and with increased mental health services for those suffering in silence due to refugee trauma. Increased access to the information necessary to prepare for postsecondary education must be readily available to children and families early on even before they start high school.

  2. As we have learned over the past three years, without quality, affordable, childcare, parents can’t go to work. What will you do to address challenges accessing childcare and preschool programs in our diverse communities?

    I would advocate for increasing affordable and quality preschool programs that support students before they start kindergarten, especially English language learners. The lack of quality childcare and preschool programs too often impacts older siblings and their own education. I would collaborate with community organizations and the K-8th school districts who could provide partnerships to support. At a district level, I would ensure any parent engagement opportunities include childcare to make those opportunities truly accessible to families. I would also support the continuation of adult education programs that provide childcare, so students can continue their education.

  3. Much of the student achievement gap has been linked to the opportunity gap that children in low-income families and children of color confront (e.g., lack of access to healthy food, preschool, tutors, and enrichment activities). If elected, what will you do to increase equity of opportunity?

    I’ve spent my career trying to close the opportunity gap by increasing access to the preparation and social capital needed to pursue diverse postsecondary education pathways. If elected, I would bring this lens to MVLA, in partnership with existing efforts, to ensure that all students know: the full menu of postsecondary options they can pursue after high school, the preparation needed, the benefits of diverse pathways, the resources available at their school, and how to use them. Increasing exposure to CTE pathways, community college, and careers can help students envision the possibilities and increase their engagement with their own education.

  4. What steps will you take to support inclusion and outcomes for children with special needs or with disabilities and their families to be fully included in our community?

    I would start by understanding how our current supports are serving or not serving children with special needs or disabilities to understand what steps we must take to ensure all students can thrive both in the classroom and outside the classroom. Strong and consistent communication with families would be a priority so that families are aware of the supports provided and there is a feedback loop on whether the existing supports are addressing each child’s needs. We must also ensure children are included in other aspects of their schooling experiences and truly feel a sense of belonging on their campus.

  5. There is a mental health crisis among children, youth, and those who care for and educate them. If elected, how will you use the resources of your new role to improve access to mental and behavioral health services?

    Destigmatizing mental and behavioral health services would be a primary focus as its stigma can keep children and families from seeking these services even when readily available. Increasing the education about their benefit and normalizing them as health care would help with openness and support of seeking them. On-campus wellness centers can help with the constant visibility and normalization of these services that could increase access for students. Additionally, increasing services available on campus through community-based partnerships could help provide more services to students whether it is offering individual or group services.