With midterm elections just around the corner –and in anticipation of the June 5 primary– three leading Democratic candidates for the next governor of California met on Tuesday, May 15th for “Building Our Future: A Forum on Children with California’s Gubernatorial Candidates.”  Hosted by Children’s Defense Fund-California, The Children’s Partnership, The Chronicle of Social Change, as well as a few other organizations, the event took place at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College.

Former Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, California State Treasurer John Chiang, and former California State Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin participated in the nonpartisan forum. Before a crowd of around 600 people, the three candidates shared their positions on issues ranging from California’s education to the state’s foster-care system.

Villaraigosa, Chiang, and Eastin all favor improving the California educational system while also offering aid to English language learners, foster youth, and low-income students.

Villaraigosa said he would focus on early childhood education while ensuring that every youth in California has access to healthcare. Throughout the debate, and in an interview with Boyle Heights Beat prior to the debate, he mentioned various aspects of his tenure as Los Angeles mayor.

“I believe that we need to grow together and that means we need to invest in every community,” Villaraigosa told the Beat. “As mayor of Los Angeles, I focused on poor communities, not just affluent communities, and I’ll do that as governor.”

He also voiced his opposition to the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) employed by the California Department of Education, saying that “they’re spreading money like peanut butter,” giving money to whole school districts rather than directly to children who need it.

Eastin stated that she would invest more in student education while providing aid for every student in the state.

“We have to increase investment in our schools,” said the former state superintendent. “We need to do a lot more work to provide services to students who have difficulties, whether it’s social and emotional problems at home or whether it’s problems with health. We’ve got to make sure that every child is supported every day everywhere they go.”

Eastin also called out charter schools for cherry-picking the best students, something she said is antithetical to everything public schools in California stand for.

“I’ve called for a moratorium on new charter schools until we can make sure that we’ve tightened the accountability of those schools,” said Eastin. “We’re going to close loopholes and work to ensure that every charter school is required to accept every child.”

Chiang made it clear that he will prioritize providing quality education to all communities while addressing teacher shortages and underinvestment in schools.

“Many students today are living with families that have extraordinary housing challenges,” stated Chiang. “We have to make sure that we provide comprehensive services for children and their families. We need to lift them out of poverty.”

Neither Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and leading Democratic candidate for the governor’s seat, nor Republicans John Cox or Travis Allen, participated in the event. Daniel Heimpel, Shimica Gaskins, and Mayra Álvarez moderated the gubernatorial debate.

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