On May 9, 200 advocates, elected officials, and children's service providers from all over the state gathered at San Francisco State University to share what we have all learned about developing local Children's Funds.  

GAVIN NEWSOM: The highlight was an inspirational speech by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom.  He held the audience in the palm of his hand for over an hour.  Some of his many ins ights:

* The San Francisco Children's Fund is a bottom-up story.   Where the state walked away, San Francisco walked in and created the Children's Fund.  We had the resources and flexibility to do everything from fund salad bars in schools to early care. Most solutions to problems come from the local level.
Great progress comes from leaders in all aspects of life.  Politician merely create the conditions where success becomes irresistible. 
* The "achievement gap" is really a "life gap."   The state needs a comprehensive strategic plan and more aggressive leadership for supporting children.  I want to create the most comprehensive plan ever presented in the state.   California is way behind other states when it comes to caring for children.  I am working with businesses in the state to understand the scope of the problem and support solutions.
* Preschool is important but a 3 hour program is not enough.  We need prenatal to college. And poor quality can do more harm than good.
* We need a constitutional amendment to increase the voter threshold on revenue to support human services.
* Last year we had more preschoolers shot and killed than officers in the line of duty.  We need to treat ammunition the way we treat firearms - we need regulations.
* Successful people are committed; interested people find excuses.  Committed people find ways to get things done.

Five local elected officials shared their advice and rationale for supporting Children's Funds.   Dr. Tony Iton, Vice President of The California Endowment and panel facilitator, opened by pointing to the important role of women elected officials in supporting education and needs of children and youth.

Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey emphaised the need to be prepared for the long haul.  He said those outside government need to be the inspiration, while insiders are the drivers.  "Also, find some "angels" for the cause who can help open doors."

Jay Schenirer, City Council member of Sacramento, is leading the Children and Youth Fund campaign there by proposing a tax on marijuana sales.  He has been surprised by the strong opposition from the City Manager, business and community groups, including pastors, the labor council, the Chamber of Commerce, non-profits, charter schools, the police and fire unions and even fellow Council members.  He says, "We must redefine public safety" and start electing people who walk into office with the right thinking on investing in youth and education instead of only the number of police on the streets.
 Tony Iton, MD, Vice President, The California Endowment,
 Sonoma Supervisor Shirlee Zane, Solano Supervisor Linda Seifert, Marin Supervisor Steve Kinsey, Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer, 
San Joaquin Supervisor Kathy Miller

Solano Supervisor Kathy Miller, first female supervisor in 30 years, has polled on the proposal that funds for children would be set-aside only from the her county's increases in dollars over the next 10 years.  She said the only thing that polled higher than that was potholes.  Miller talked about the importance of framing, saying they had to turn their Children's Bill of Rights into a Resolution of Commitment to satisfy one conservative Board member who didn't want the Bill of Rights to imply entitlement.

Sonoma Supervisor Shirlee Zane emphasized the importance of the theme of "upstream investments," a good PR campaign, and "paking the chambers."   Solano Supervisor Linda Seifert recommended developing a good business case and enlisting support of the cities in the county.  "You have to compete with streets and infrastructure."


Kimberly Aceves, Executive Director of RYSE Center in Richmond California, gave a rousing presentation on their grassroots campaign to place a Children's Fund on the ballot. Emphasizing that it is a campaign grounded in their values, they want to reverse a longstanding culture of "NO" to youth.
What is Richmond Kids First
* Seeks to secure 3% of Richmond's general budget for a dedicated funding stream, generating $4.3 million dollars for 10 years.
* Creates an Oversight Committee that includes 15 youth and adults appointed by City Council
* Will serve children and youth ages 0 - 18 and disconnected transitional-aged youth 18 - 24.

Win or Lose: This is about Movement Building
Kimberly pointed to some important lessons learned so far:
* Collecting signatures to place a measure on the ballot is key to a grassroots campaign.  It creates community ownership  -- but it is HARD WORK and takes more time than you think
* Polling is costly but is very important - and it ignites the base.  When their measure polled at 84% in favor, it showed young people that Richmond adults actually do care about them.


Dave Metz, primo pollster and strategist on California Children's Funds

Dave Metz of FM3 Research presented riveting data from a dozen polls conducted in California and nationwide on funding children's services.  Highlights included:

* Support for children, particularly keeping children in school, is consistently high, while concern about taxes is relatively low.

* 62% of voters nationally recognize that the ages before five are the most important time for child development and have long term benefits.

* Some tax mechanisms fare better than others.  Setting aside a small portion of existing annual County budgets rates the highest.

* One of the major concerns of voters is a distrust of government accountability.  Ways to counter that include independent financial audits, citizen oversight boards, community engagement in decision-making, and annual standards for care.

* The most trusted messengers on children's issues are parents, teachers and community-based organizations.

* The most important variable in the success of a ballot measure are the 75 words in the ballot question - that's all most voters will know!

Polling from Napa is typical for California.

Yes, No and Swing Voters

Parent and Youth Leadership  in Children's Fund Campaigns
Deanna Gao, Youth Organizer, RYSE Center, and Jose Luis Mejia, Program Coordinator from Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, present at workshop on Engaging Youth and Parents in a Ballot Measure campaign.

"Nothing about us without us," is the rallying cry of the youth movement, and a ballot measure campaign can embrace this philosophy. The Richmond campaign exemplifies an authetic youth role, as opposed to tokenism.  Youth are a key part of every aspect of the campaign, including designing the measure, collecting the sign atures, and m aking the
case to the community.  

The Parent  Leadership Training Institute is organ izing parents for the Solano campaign.  Lenesha Anderson (pictured to the left) fired up the workshop with her determination and commitment.  She has gone from never voting to wanting to run for the Vallejo City Council to create a Children's Fund for her city - once they are successful at the county level.  
If you want to learn more about Funding the Next Generation and explore your community's potential for a dedicated public funding stream for children, youth and families, contact:

Margaret Brodkin
Founder and Director,  Funding the Next Generation      
phone: 415-794-4963 


Click here for presentations made at the conference - top of page under Featured information.


1.  Fighting for the reallocation of local public dollars from punishment to prevention is a social justice issue.  Most local dollars go to law enforcement - Children's Funds change that.
2. The biggest challenge is the California elections law - getting a 2/3 vote for dedicated funding. Workarounds are possible, and often necessary.
3.   Organizing is the key activity.
4.  Don't let "It's not the right time" stop you.
5.  Always expect opposition - from those competing for dollars, protecting their turf and control, and those objecting to taxes and too much government.
6.  Non-profits are the core organizers.  They have a tradition of social justice, understand the problems close up, and are connected to the most important voices - youth and parents.
7.  The right revenue stream is the sweet spot where political reality, kids' needs, and your capacity overlaps.
8.  Both persuasion and pressure are essential political tactics.
9. Children's Fund campaigns can be led from the community or from inside government  -- or a bit of both.
10.  If you want dedicated funding, you need dedicated staff to work on it.


Joelle Gallagher,
ED of Cope Family Center, shared the unusual story of getting a Children's Fund on the ballot in Napa.  
* They started with a community consensus and formal approval by the Board of Supervisors of a Bill of Rights for Children.
* They analyzed the county budget and discovered that only 2% of discretionary dollars were spent on children.
* They polled and learned that while roads were the highest public priority, the next 5 issues on the public's priority list were all related to children.
* They drafted the Napa County Child Wellness Act to set aside up to 4% of the county general fund for children's services and proceeded to mount a signature campaign.
* The county took them to court about the legality of what they were doing and it ended with a compromise:
A quarter cent sales tax that would go to a legally mandated correctional facility and to a children's fund.

"If we were going to expect the community to pay for corrections, we should also show a real commitment to prevention," said Gallagher.

So Measure Y was born - a true upstream/downstream approach.

Gallagher's advice:
* Start early.
* Educate CBO's about their rights to donate to and endorse ballot measures.
* Make sure some team members have political experience.
* Start fundraising as soon as possible.
* Do contingency planning for at least 2 election cycles.

Remember: A win may look different than you anticipated.  It may be imperfect - be willing to take a small step forward.
Renowned pollster, Celinda Lake, Lake Research Partners


The bad news:

* A majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, and the next generation will be worse off than the current generation.
* Trump could win the presidency.  Trump voters stand out for their pessimism and economic anxiety.
* The cure for cancer and the next Bill Gates will probably not come from the  U.S.
* A majority of millennials feel volunteering half a day in a soup kitchen has more impact than having a seasoned elected official with a commitment to food access issues in office.
* The changing American electorate is not participating fully in the civic process.  (This is unmarried women, 18-32 year olds, African Americans, Latinos, and Asi an Americans.)

The good news:

* The family-work agenda is very popular with voters. (50% of births to millennials are to single moms.)
*  Americans believe that government should play a role in ensuring every person who wants to work has a job and a good standard of living. This should be built on systems at the local level that are already in place.
* A majority of voters are willing to pay more in taxes particularly if they are directed to K- as education.
* Americans support a kid-centric agenda of boosting working families, especially regarding racial discrimination, children and poverty.


Ed Harrington, former Controller of San Francisco, facilitated a panel on drafting a Children's Fund ballot measure.  One key question he addressed was about set-asides - i.e. proposals to to allocate a portion of a city or county budget for children.  Advocates are always asked: Where do you want us to take the money from:

Ed's advice:
* Children's advocates tend to be responsible people who care about many different county programs.
* When looking at a set-aside the issue comes up about what else will suffer to provide the funds for children.
* When labor unions want a raise, they make the argument that they deserve one - they assume county supervisors and management will need to figure out where the money comes from to fund the raise.
* You should not feel too responsible for coming up with an answer.

Well, that's a relief coming from the fiscal guru of Funding the Next Generation.

What is an initiative?

Brad Hertz from the Sutton Law Firm helped conference participants understand the basics of a voter initiative.  It must be:
* Legislative, not administrative.
* Embrace a single subject.
* Be specific, not vague.
Best if it has a catchy title.  
Funding the Next Generation
The nation's first initiative to help communities develop local public funding streams for children, youth and families.

Project Sponsor
San Francisco State University
School of Health and Social Sciences

Collaborating Partners
- Berkeley Media Studies Group
- California Child Care Resource and Referral Network
- California Network of Family Strengthening Networks
- Children Now
- 50 + 1 Strategies 
- First 5 Association of California
FM3 Research
- Partnership for Children and Youth
 - Prevent Child Abuse California
- Public Administration Program
S.F. State University
- Social Change Partners LLC 
- Tramutola Advisors
- The Children's Partnership
- Youth Leadership Institute 

Legal Support
  Orrick Public Finance Group
Sutton Law Firm
Remcho, Johansen, and Purcell

Public Finance Consultant
Ed Harrington

The California Endowment
San Francisco Foundation
Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund
S.H. Cowell Foundation