On the Issues: Education - Joe Simitian


Joe knows that early childhood education, quality teachers, and adequate school funding are essential to positive outcomes for children. He’s the guy behind Transitional Kindergarten for four-year-olds in California. He’s a leader in building teacher housing. He’s improved funding for every public school in California. He was twice named Outstanding Legislator of the Year by the California School Boards Association.

As a California State Senator, Joe authored the bill establishing Transitional Kindergarten, the first new grade level in California in more than 100 years. Now, more than half of California’s four-year-olds are enrolled in the program, which provides age-appropriate curriculum and prepares them for Kindergarten and beyond.

As a California State Legislator, Joe not only fought to increase dollars going to underfunded districts, he also made sure districts with strong tax bases could keep their tax dollars local for neighborhood schools.

Working with school districts, cities and the private sector, Joe is leading the effort to build housing for teachers and other school employees in the communities where they work. The first project in Palo Alto (110 units) is under construction and will serve teachers from a half dozen districts in northern Santa Clara and southern San Mateo counties. A second project in Santa Clara County’s West Valley is already underway.

Joe understands that children with disabilities — be they physical, cognitive or otherwise — often find traditional playgrounds inaccessible. Joe pushed Santa Clara County to help fund multiple new “all-inclusive” playgrounds that every child can enjoy, whether they be in wheelchairs, have sensory sensitivities or have any special needs. This model of inclusive playground has been replicated internationally.

Joe was twice named Outstanding Legislator of the Year by the California School Boards Association and has been recognized for his work in education by more than a dozen education organizations including the California Parent Teacher Association and the California Association of Low Wealth Schools.