San Francisco is home to 35,000 children under 5, and many of their parents rely on a patchwork of public programs for day care and preschool. The school district, three city agencies and a bevy of nonprofit groups offer options for all kinds of families — but navigating the system can be confusing.
So last month, as part of his budget proposal, Mayor Ed Lee announced his intention to combine all city services for young children and their families into a single office, which would be created if the Board of Supervisors approves the mayor’s budget.
“The thing we always hear from our families is how complicated the maze is,” said Hydra Mendoza, the mayor’s education advisor. “We’ve been having these conversations for a while about how we can combine our efforts, so families don’t have to go to different agencies.”
The independent Office of Early Care and Education would draw funding and personnel from the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families, which provides grants to early education nonprofits; First 5 San Francisco, which runs the Preschool for All program; and the Human Services Agency, which administers a state-funded subsidized day care program.
“We’re bringing all of that work under one roof,” said Mendoza, who has been working with the mayor and the various agencies on the proposal. “If you were looking for a preschool spot, for example, this would be the office.”
Creating the office would not cost The City anything extra, because the funds would come out of the existing agencies’ budgets, Mendoza said. The new office would also work closely with the San Francisco Unified School District, which runs preschools throughout The City. However, the district is not a city entity and would not contribute funds.
Leaders of the three city agencies said child care options would be more consistent and of higher quality under the new office, which would be able to focus exclusively on young children.
Trent Rhorer, director of The City’s Human Services Agency, said the new office would be more efficient at a time when every dollar counts. Rhorer’s agency, which spends more than $40 million a year on early care and education, administers CalWORKs, the state’s welfare-to-work program. Sacramento is poised to slash funding for the program by several hundred million dollars, which would cut many families off from access to subsidized childcare.
“With a single office, we’ll be able to better leverage federal and state dollars, which is going to be increasingly important,” Rhorer said.
It’s hard to say how many families benefit from The City’s myriad early education and child care programs, because many families use multiple services. But statistics from various agencies suggest the number is significant
Sources: Census data, city agencies