FAIRFIELD — A forum addressing early childhood concluded Saturday with input from grateful parents and passionate children’s advocates.
“The wellspring of lifelong success lies in the world we shape with our children . . . ,” said Christie Speck, of Solano Family and Children’s Services. “Together we will unleash a tidal wave of talent and achievement . . . for a better future,” she said.
Organized by an array of local interest groups, the inaugural Children and Families Policy Forum drew nearly 100 community members to the Solano County Events Center. The five-hour gathering featured a legislative panel that included Rep. John Garamendi, state Sen. Lois Wolk and Assembly members Jim Frazier and Mariko Yamada. Separate panels focused on early childhood education, health and K-12 educational issues, and youth leadership.
Christie Speck said high-quality early education and support services for families can really make a difference – providing a stronger economy, a more productive workforce and fewer inmates in prisons. She said the elected officials, who have many other priorities, seemed “profoundly affected” by the day’s discussion.
“I think there was a degree of finally understanding what’s happening in the county that can move us forward to support children,” she said.
Superintendent of Schools Jay Speck, in a statement, said it’s clear that the K-12 system can’t stem the tide of challenges faced by youth.
“The achievement gap between subgroups of students is persistent and troubling. While graduation rates are improving, we continue to be concerned about the graduation rates for subgroups of students and particularly for those students in neighborhoods ravaged by the impact of generational poverty,” he said.
He said the districts will be responding in new and impactful ways to address the needs of their students and that they will be looking for ways to work in unison with other agencies and nonprofits.
Christina Arrostuto, of First5 Solano, thought there were plenty of points of convergence – synergy – at the forum. A common interest to raise the minimum wage and close the “word gap” were both apparent, she said. Closing the word gap ensures that children of all income levels have appropriate vocabulary skills when they enter kindergarten so they will be able to learn to read.
Parent Marisol Amado, of Napa, said the forum encouraged her to become more involved with not only her children’s schools but her community. She said issues such as health insurance, raising the minimum wage and early education are important for the future of the community as well as the country.
“We can eliminate a lot of the needs if we just focus on those issues,” she said.
Fairfield resident Jenny Huff, a parent of an autistic child, said she’s grateful for what the county provides her 13-year-old daughter but was concerned about disparities at schools involving children with disabilities.
“They’re set apart from all the other kids,” she said. “I’d like to see everybody working together.”
“They can be productive members of society . . . ,” she added.
Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.