Newsom wants to increase budget for dyslexia and preschool education

Governor Gavin Newsom, who has written a book on his own struggle with dyslexia, intends to spend more money in the state budget for screenings for the disease, as well as additional funding for the preschool education, he told the Sacramento Bee in an interview.

Newsom struggled in school because of his dyslexia, but attributes his ultimate success to his mother’s efforts to diagnose him at a young age and enroll him in special after-school and summer programs.

He says the benefits of screening more young children and intervening early, which dyslexia experts believe is essential, could be wide-ranging. During a recent visit to Valley State Prison, Newsom asked a group of inmates if they knew what dyslexia was. He said several laughed in gratitude. One of them, an older man in a wheelchair, said he did not learn to read until he arrived in prison.

“How many other children have this, but how many others haven’t received this help?” Newsom said. “I was just lucky enough to get this help. “

During his nearly three years as governor, Newsom has devoted more than $ 18 million in public funds to research and early detection programs for dyslexia, as well as additional funds to train teachers to help patients. dyslexic students. But Newsom says the programs he has funded are not advanced enough to show the results he wants.

“I feel inadequate about it,” Newsom said. “I was careful. I haven’t done what I wanted to do on the ladder yet, because I think it’s a bit too complacent.

By 2023, the Democratic governor hopes that an early detection tool developed by a group of scientists working with the University of California at San Francisco will be deployed in schools across the state. Studies have estimated that 7-20% of people may have some level of dyslexia, Newsom said. Helping them early could pay dividends when these children enter the workforce with all their abilities, he argues.

This is one of the main inspirations for the children’s book he wrote, which comes out on Tuesday, he said.

The book centers on protagonist Ben’s struggle to read and the strength he finds in playing baseball, a sport that has also played a big part in Newsom’s life.

The future governor had planned to attend community college, but instead attended Santa Clara University with a partial $ 500 baseball scholarship during his first term, according to a copy of his financial aid record provided to The Sacramento Bee. An elbow injury kept him from playing much in college, spokesman Nathan Click said, but Newsom credits the scholarship with the importance of getting him into school in the first place.

In many aspects of Newsom’s life, his dyslexia still bothers him, such as when he has to give speeches with a teleprompter or when he tries to read to his children.

“It’s not going away,” he said. “It’s with you forever.”

But in other areas, Newsom describes his dyslexia as a gift. As an entrepreneur starting a wine business in San Francisco, he says seeing the world differently has given him a competitive advantage. He also emphasizes his visual memory, which assistants describe as almost photographic, as another gift of his dyslexia. Speaking from his desk on Zoom, he read his own dyslexia screening report from 1973, when he would have been around 5 years old.

“Above-average visual memory,” he read in the report. “I still have this.”

He said he hoped his book, titled “Ben and Emma’s Big Hit,” will allow children with dyslexia to see their own hidden talents. He also hopes it will help parents who want to bring up the subject with their children, which he has tried to do with his four children. “A number of them” also have difficulty reading, he said.

He declined to give specific details on his 2022-2023 budget proposal, which is due in January, but said it would aim to help children who “start behind,” as he has done. It will be aided in its efforts by a projected surplus, which the Office of Legislative Analysts’ non-partisan estimates could total $ 31 billion.

“We did a lot more last year than the year before, and this year’s budget is going to see a lot more, forgive my language,” he said.

He also said he would expand literacy programs through First 5, a public program that provides services to children aged 0-5.

Critics of Newsom have blasted its education policies, especially during the COVID-19 school closings, which they said were harming California children, especially those with learning disabilities. His main challenger in the recall election earlier this year, conservative radio personality Larry Elder, came in part on reforming the California education system.

Since then, multiple ballot measures have been proposed which aim to make it easier for parents to enroll their children in private schools.

Newsom says he doesn’t agree with these strategies, but said the underlying criticism – that California’s education system isn’t good enough – is right.

“They are not wrong in many ways in their criticism,” he said. “We need to do better. It’s not just about spending more money, as important as it is. But it’s also about reimagining public education to meet the needs, lingering challenges and gaps. , especially for the African American and Latin community.

This story was originally published December 7, 2021 6:00 a.m.

Sophia Bollag covers California politics and government. Prior to joining The Bee, she reported in Sacramento for The Associated Press and The Los Angeles Times. She grew up in California and graduated from Northwestern University.
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