City giving children a little seed money 

With the school year approaching, a program started by Mayor Gavin Newsom will begin dropping cash into accounts for kindergartners to start saving for college.

Since the Board of Supervisors agreed to restore the roughly $250,000 allocated in the mayor’s budget for his Kindergarten to College program, city and school officials are spending the next few weeks signing up kindergartners.

The Mayor’s Office will deposit $50 into accounts for about 1,300 kindergartners this school year. Newsom has agreed to double that deposit for low-income kids.

The program has already gained momentum in the community, which has donated more than $200,000 toward the accounts, city officials said.

That money will be the start of a long-term savings account that community donors and families will contribute to through the course of students’ academic careers, City Treasurer Jose Cisneros said.

In its first year, The City will open accounts for 25 percent, or roughly 1,300, kindergartners entering public schools in San Francisco. There will be at least one school from each of the 11 supervisor districts that will get college accounts, Cisneros said.

The plan is to amass more funding next year, through The City and community donors, to expand the program so that it covers 50 percent of all kindergartners. The following year, Newsom hopes to offer an account to every child entering kindergarten in The City.

Newsom included the program in his $6.5 billion budget. But, city supervisors removed it to use as a bargaining chip, and last week they restored the funding during budget negotiations, after seeing the excitement among parents in the community, Supervisor Bevan Dufty said.

“The benefits to students, their families and ultimately our economy vastly outweigh the modest initial investment of this new program,” Newsom said. “I’m glad we were able to work with the board to get this done.”

Part of the money will pay for an employee to administer the accounts, partly to ensure they are spent on the intended purpose: college tuition. The City will have part ownership of the accounts, making it more difficult for parents to withdraw the funds for any reason other than a child’s college education, Cisneros said.

“That money is safe for the child,” Cisneros said.

Building blocks

The Mayor’s Office is helping kindergartners plan for college.

25% Public school kindergartners in 2010-11 school year who will receive up to $100 in savings account deposits from The City

50% Kindergartners in 2011-12 school year who will receive the savings account deposits

100% Kindergartners in 2012-13 school year who will receive the savings account deposits

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Erin Sherbert

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