More than 4,000 San Francisco children could lose important services under a gubernatorial budget proposal that would reduce First 5 funding by 50 percent.
First 5 was created in 1998 as part of Proposition 10’s 50-cent tax increase on cigarettes sales. The organization provides children through age 5 with education, health services and child care, among dozens of other programs.
To close California’s $25.4 billion budget deficit, Gov. Jerry Brown wants to take away $1 billion already allocated for First 5 spending and to cut future spending by 50 percent. That and other proposals would need to be approved by taxpayers in a June special election.
In The City, First 5 San Francisco receives $9 million annually from the state, and serves more than 8,000 children. But if the cuts are approved, Executive Director Laurel Kloomok estimates, half of those children will no longer be served.
Programs that would be cut have not yet been named, Kloomok said. First 5 funding provides for a variety of services from early preschool education to mental health consultations and even child care subsidies in homeless shelters.
The reduction could mean the worst cuts in the organization’s history. “This climate doesn’t bode well for 0- to 5-year-old care,” Kloomok said. “We are preparing for the worst.”
San Mateo County’s First 5 is bracing for similar cuts. The organization released a summary of the proposals emphasizing if they are approved, “all support for early childhood education providers” will be cut.
Kloomok says Brown’s proposal is based on the idea that all 58 counties have a $1 billion reserve, which she said is not true. In fact, she said, the reserves have already been allocated to fund future programs.
A budgetary hearing related to the First 5 program is scheduled for Wednesday at 10 a.m. in Sacramento. Kloomok said First 5 San Francisco and dozens of other affected agencies will be in attendance.
Although threats to take away funding have always existed, Kloomok said, she believes this time around it is possible the services will be reduced as much as anticipated. “Things seem more serious now,” she said. “We want to be part of the solution, but not at the cost of elimination.”
Half of the local agency’s funding is at risk from governor’s budget proposal.
8,000 Children served in San Francisco
220 Grants to community agencies from First 5 San Francisco
6,793 Children served in San Mateo County
4,177 Providers received funding from First 5 San Mateo County
Source: First 5 San Francisco and First 5 San Mateo County