San Francisco program named finalist in government innovations competition

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) — A San Francisco program that helps children and their families save money for college is in the running for a prestigious award from Harvard University.

The Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University announced yesterday that San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College program is among nine finalists in the Innovations in American Government Awards competition, city officials said.

A cohort of policy experts, researchers and practitioners chose the nine finalists by looking at government initiatives that address policy issues such as economic development, environmental and community revitalization, public health, equal access to education, emergency preparedness and health care, according to city officials.

Kindergarten to College, which began during the 2010-2011 school year, is the first universal and automatic savings program in the country, city officials said.

The program helps families put away funds by establishing a Citibank college savings account containing $50 for every kindergarten student enrolled in a San Francisco public school. In addition, the program encourages families to save money throughout their child’s academic career by providing monetary incentives and bonuses.

According to city officials, San Francisco families so far have invested more than $1 million of their own money.

Half of contributing families earn less than $40,000 a year for a family of four and participate in the national school lunch program, city officials said.

“K2C has made college savings a reality for families at all income levels in San Francisco,” city Treasurer Jose Cisneros said in a statement. “I know families in San Francisco are struggling, and I am proud that we have created a pathway for college attendance in our students.”

The San Francisco Treasurer’s Office of Financial Empowerment, in partnership with the Mayor’s office and the San Francisco Unified School District, runs Kindergarten to College.

City officials said the program’s leaders will give a presentation, along with other finalists, in front of the National Selection Committee of the Innovations in American Government Awards on May 20, at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The winner will be announced this summer.

“These programs represent the forefront in government innovation and a cross-section of issues of the twenty-first century, including renewable energy, community revitalization and public-private partnerships,”
director of the Innovations in Government program at the Ash Center Stephen Goldsmith said in a statement. “They demonstrate that efforts to make government work better can stem not only from executive orders and statewide initiatives, but also small community programs and private citizens on social media.”

The Innovation in American Government Awards was created in 1985 with funding from the Ford Foundation, and aims to recognize models of government innovations, according to city officials.

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