Our Learning Network

“Working with Funding the Next Generation Project makes me confident that we will prevail in moving the needle for children and youth in our local communities.” 
– Claudia Jasin, City of Sacramento

We are organizing a cohort of coalitions in interested communities that have both the motivation and the foundational elements of community commitment and leadership in place to fight for resources for children and youth. The communities represent a wide range of populations in terms of culture, ethnicity, and socio-economic status. The cohort functions as a learning community – sharing successes, ideas and challenges. The participating communities are being supported in budget research, strategic planning, community organizing, coalition building, messaging, polling, technology, and fundraising.

The representatives of the cities and counties participating in our learning community work collaboratively to promote the goal of creating dedicated revenue streams for children, youth and their families throughout the state.

Link to mission statement of the network.

“Coming together makes us realize the parallels in our efforts, and the shared priorities that could make our work more likely to be successful.” — Elliott Balch, Chief Operating Officer, Central Valley Community Foundation

“I get inspiration from the learning community meetings – with so many people who are so dedicated to long term success.” — Eric Gurna, President and CEO, LA’s BEST

Taking the Lead

City of Richmond

Young people submitting petitions for Richmond Fund for Children and Youth to Contra Costa County elections office.

For years, folks at the RYSE Center in Richmond dreamed about having a Youth Fund, and in 2014, they got serious.  First they organized the Invest in Youth Coalition (IYC), with their allies and colleagues in the community.  After months of meetings and building consensus, the IYC agreed that its first collective goal would be to work to pass a Youth Fund, modeled after the Funds in San Francisco and Oakland.  They then spent several months developing a measure that was consistent with their philosophy about young people.  It was a group process, and young people had a full voice.  The lawyer who drafted the final measure on behalf of Richmond Kids First, the name of the campaign, said it was the most extensive measure she had ever seen.

The goals in the measure were:

  • To ensure that Richmond’s children, youth and young adults are physically, emotionally, mentally and socially healthy, educated, successful in school, and live in stable, safe and supported families and communities;
  • To increase safety for children, youth, young adults, their parents/guardians, families and the communities in which they live by preventing problems and enhancing the strengths of children, youth, young adults and their families;
  • To ensure young people are provided with gender-responsive, trauma-informed, population-specific and culturally-competent services;
  • To strengthen collaboration among public agencies and community-based organizations around shared outcomes among all service providers for children, youth, young adults and their parents/guardians;
  • To ensure an equitable distribution of resources to all of Richmond’s young people in recognition of the importance of investment in their futures from birth through young adulthood;
  • To fill gaps in services and leverage other resources whenever feasible.

A petition drive ensured to get the measure on the ballot and young people led the way collecting signatures.  It was a heroic organizing effort.  In the end, despite vigorous advocacy efforts, the City Council used its discretion to keep the measure off the 2016 ballot.  However, the signatures were validated and, the measure passed in June 2018 by 76% of the vote.  However, reaching a successful measure was not easy, and it took 2 other measures to make it real – a second measure in June 2018 requiring a new revenue stream for the Fund, and the passage of a Real Estate Transfer Tax in November 2018 to raise the money to pay for the Fund.  As a result of all the negotiations around the 3 measures, in the end they all had widespread support from city officials, labor and youth advocates.

Featured Communities – Important Lessons Learned

City of Sacramento

Sac Kids First coalition submitting 39,017 signatures for a Children’s Fund to the Registrar of Voters in Sacramento

Advocates for kids in Sacramento finished their second round of a ballot measure in March 2020.  The first was led by City Council member Jay Schenirer.  The 2016 measure called for the marijuana tax proceeds to be placed in a dedicated fund for youth services.  Despite opposition by the city’s main newspaper, the measure gleaned 65.8% of the vote, just short of the 2/3 needed to pass.  This demonstrated strong support for youth in the City of Sacramento.

This near-success spurred on a new and diverse grassroots coalition called Sac Kids First, brought together by the East Bay Asian Youth Center, to develop a second measure: a set aside of 2.5% of the city’s General Fund for a Children’s Fund for services to children and youth less than 25 years old.

The goals of the Fund were to:

  • Support youth to live safe, peaceful and healthy lives free from involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems.
  • Help children and youth succeed in school and graduate high school prepared for college, career, and community.
  • Foster the healthy development of young children, ages 0 – 5 years old.

The Fund was expected to accrue $12 Million a year, to be overseen by a Sacramento Children’s Fund Planning and Oversight Commission.  Allowable uses would have included mentoring, job training, culturally-based hearing practices, summer and after-school learning, early childhood education and parent support services.

Sac Kids First drafted the measure and collected signatures to place it on the ballot.  Ultimately the measure only received 45% of the vote due primarily to opposition by the Mayor and by a vigorous opposition campaign waged by the city’s firefighters’ union.  The youth involved in the campaign, however, were not discouraged.  They felt like they gained momentum and plan to keep fighting.  AND, while the Mayor opposed the SacKids measure, he is now proposing “a better way” – his own ballot measure for a youth fund.  It will likely be less money and more “escape hatches” for fiscal emergencies, but it is still light years ahead of where Sacramento has been in terms funding for children and youth!  (This page will be updated as the new measure proceeds.)  Meanwhile there is currently a measure before the City Council declaring youth development a public safety issue.

City of PomonaImage may contain: 6 people, people smiling, people standing

Gente Organizada, is a community-led social action non-profit organization based in Pomona whose mission is to bring together generation to access, build and wield their collective power to achieve educational, economic, and social justice in their city, the largest city in the East LA County region.  Pomona is one of the economically disadvantaged part of the county, comprised of a largely Spanish-speaking immigrant population.  The group is leading a campaign for a Pomona Youth Fund.  They are working to amend the City Charter to require the creation of a fund.  They have done their homework by creating an extensive report on inequities in the city, particularly inequities in funding – identifying the small amount of money going to youth development.  They have also begun advocating for increased revenue for Pomona youth in the Los Angeles County budget.

Gente Organizada uses an asset-based approach to community organizing instead of focusing narrowly on the deficiencies and plight of immigrant communities.  They have a multi-generational approach through the Pomona Students Union and with parents through Padres Unidos de Pomonal  They build coalitions with partners and social action groups to promote a community-led movement for change.  One focus is to dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline.

 

Group from Fathers and Families standing in front of their contributions to the San Joaquin Children and Youth Bill of Rights

San Joaquin County

Starting in 2016 with a small group of children’s service providers and an energetic member of the Board of Supervisors, Kathy Miller, a new organization was born: the San Joaquin Children’s Alliance. Within a year, it has succeeded in having the Board of Supervisors adopt a formal Resolution of Commitment to the county’s children, with 150 people in the audience who had been engaged in drafting a Children and Youth Bill of Rights. The Alliance moved on to successfully advocate that a formal task force of the county be established with the purpose of developing strategies and policies for increasing funding for services.

After a year of work, the Task Force presented its report to the Board of Supervisors with 100 folks from all parts of the county in the audience and providing testimony. The major recommendation was that marijuana tax dollars be spent on prevention programs for kids. After powerful advocacy, the Board of Supervisors voted to place a measure on the ballot to tax marijuana and have 50% of the proceeds go to children and youth services. This was an astonishing victory – and set the pace for communities around the state. In November 2018, the measure received 63.5% of the vote. While this would mean passing in most states in the country, in California a 2/3 vote is required. The Alliance is not giving up and is busily strategizing next steps, including supporting the continuation of the county Task Force and the engagement of multiple players in identifying needs of kids and presenting the Board of Supervisors with recommendations and priorities.

Going from a membership base centered in Stockton, the Alliance has spread throughout the County, involving Tracy, Lodi and other communities and rural areas. And, it has expanded from a focus on young children to also having youth members, who are being trained to translate their personal stories into policy and funding demands. The Alliance is also reaching beyond service providers, and is engaging the business community and other civic leaders, as well as the major educational institution in the county, the University of the Pacific.

Two foundations have stepped up to provide support: The Sierra Health Foundation and The California Endowment. Christina Gilbert is the organizer of the group – a mom with 3 kids in the public schools, new to organizing, but an old hand at herding cats and helping folks get efficiently and enthusiastically from A to B. She is a natural, and is bringing people together around kids in San Joaquin County like never before.

 

 

Alameda County

Stakeholders from throughout Alameda County have been talking in many forums over the years about the needs of young children and the need for adequate resources. In 2017 all of the pieces began to fall in place for a 2018 sales tax measure. A lesson learned for the field is that it is sometimes a long build-up to get to a point where a ballot measure is the right course of action.

The elements that came together for Alameda County are:

  • An early care network of professionals who could provide the backbone of information needed for a stellar proposal.
  • A parent organizing group (Parent Voices) that was fully engaged and brought reality and passion to the public forum.
  • Two members of the Board of Supervisors who agreed to be champions of the cause – using their stature, expertise and staff to provide necessary support.
  • SEIU as a partner in the cause, bringing organizing expertise and putting a spotlight on the key issue of childcare wages.

The totally unique element of the campaign is the role that the East Bay Community Foundation is playing. Community foundations are legally able to give money directly to political issue campaigns. Sadly, it rarely happens, and many foundations and others believe it is not legal. Not only is the East Bay Community Foundation donating to the campaign, but it has established a fund that allows all types of foundations to pool their money and also give money legally. By the end of 2017, the pooled fund was a million dollars – a long way toward the cost of a campaign. Funding the Next Generation is recommending that other community foundations use this as a model. One of the biggest challenges for Children’s Fund campaigns is raising dollars. There is no moneyed interest with the resources to fund a campaign, as there is in school bonds, for instance, where contractors will benefit. For that reason, this strategy being pioneered by the East Bay Community Foundation is particularly important to the children’s movement.

A half-cent sales tax was placed on the ballot in June 2018. It came within an inch of winning, gleaning 66.2% of the vote – just short of the 2/3 needed. BUT the sponsoring organizations and leaders did not give up, and are putting the measure on the ballot again for 2020. This time they are circulating a petition to get signatures in hopes that the voter threshold will be lowered (through a clarification by the California Supreme Court) for measures placed on the ballot by voters. One other difference is that Oakland Children’s Hospital has joined forces with the other groups, and proceeds from the tax will be shared with them to fund prevention services.  In the end, the signatures have paid off, as the measure received 64% of the vote and was certified as having passed by the County.  However, the final actual results await a court opinion by the state Supreme Court to determine whether measures placed on the ballot by the voters only need a majority of voter approval.  If the Court decides in their favor, they will begin collecting the money for early care.

Made It To the Ballot!

Solano County

A broad coalition of children’s service providers worked for a year to get a Children’s Fund placed on the Nov. 2016 ballot. They were building on years of work coalescing service providers in the public and private sector around policy and program development, including the completion of a Solano County Children’s budget. A 2014 report card on children, created by an advisory committee to the Board of Supervisors, recommended a ballot measure for sustainable funding. An early step was a poll, funded in part by the Solano County First 5 and the United Way.  The Coalition, calling itself Funding the Next Generation Solano, spent eight months drafting a measure, documenting the feasibility of their plan and presenting ideas to the Board of Supervisors.  After several enthusiastic hearings, the Board agreed to place a sales tax on the ballot to fund the Solano Fund for Children.  It was accompanied by an advisory measure to ensure the tax money would go to kids.  The Advisory measure passed, but the sales tax did not.  The group is now working at two levels: exploring what can be done in Vallejo where the measure received sufficient votes; and returning with the Board of Supervisors to urge the creation of a Children’s Budget.  One new development is the engagement of a group of youth from Vallejo eager to join the campaign.

Napa County

Napa started its work with a core group comprised of representatives of the Department of Public Health, the First 5 Commission and a non-profit family support agency leading the effort to get dedicated funding. They convened 2 conferences introducing the goal of dedicated funding and creating a Children’s Bill of Rights – involving over 40 public officials and public and private service providers.  They successfully advocated the approval of a Bill of Rights and creation of a Children’s Budget with the Board of Supervisors.  With that work complete, they created a steering committee under the auspice of Cope Family Center, hired a coordinator for Funding the Next Generation Napa, developed plans for a dedicated funding stream and conducted education and outreach throughout the community.  They negotiated with the Board of Supervisors to make children’s services a priority in a June, 2016, ballot measure for a half-cent sales tax.  The measure gained a lot of attention and provided the platform for a major public education campaign – important in Napa County since so many decision-makers and influential citizens were under the misapprehension that there were no disadvantaged young people in their community.  While the measure came close at 46%, it did not pass.  Not planning to give up, the Steering Committee of the measure is re-grouping and planning its next steps.

Marin County

Marin County was the first place to step forward to place a funding measure for kids on the ballot in this new phase of the children’s funding movement – i.e. post the pioneering work of San Francisco and Oakland.  For almost 7 years they prepared for the 2016 ballot for a sales tax dedicated to services for young children.  Spurred by First 5 Marin, in 2009 a group of civic, non-profit leaders, along with a few representatives of elected officials, formed MarinKids to study the funding needs and options, and develop a plan.  They hoped to be on the ballot in 2012, but postponed the measure to 2014 due to a competing measure.  They creation of this coalition of organizations and local leaders was the essential element of the effort – critical to getting broad buy-in for a children’s agenda and building the case.  In preparation for the 2016 campaign they formed StrongStart to spearhead the actual campaign.  They received 63% of the vote – short of the 2/3 needed.   The entire effort was a model for the field in many ways.  In retrospect some of the leaders involved felt the effort might have lacked the grassroots outreach needed.

Oakland

With the leadership (and fundraising prowess) of Oakland’s Mayor, Libby Schaaf, Oakland mounted a vigorous campaign to pass a parcel tax to fund both preschool and Oakland Promise, a high school and college scholarship program.  It was based on years of research documenting the need.  They mounted a signature campaign to place it on the ballot.  It was opposed by the real estate industry, which succeeded in preventing the measure from receiving 2/3 of the vote.

Innovative Strategies

Sonoma County

The Cradle to Career initiative, convened through the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS) and representing a diverse network of public and private stakeholders in child and youth development, investigated the creation of a dedicated funding stream with a focus on universal pre-school. The DHS commissioned a Portrait of Sonoma County provided comprehensive information about disparities in the community and opportunity gaps for children.  With this background research completed, a citizen steering committee was formed to plan for a future ballot measure, with all options are on the table.

Sonoma First 5 is providing support to the research and public education component of this effort.  They have explored social impact bonds, sales taxes, and cannabis tax revenue.  So far, they think that the best option could be a fee on single use plastics.  But even before the caronavirus they saw that recurring natural disasters exacerbated competing priorities.  They are currently keeping the long view on revenue options while building their political capital.  They will continue to turn to polling and legal opinions as they move forward.

Yolo County

In 2017, the Yolo County Office of Education spearheaded a planning process for a preschool ballot measure.  A strong steering committee was formed and a draft of the measure was completed.  Unfortunately they faced political and funding barriers they felt they could not overcome.  The measure has been drafted and hopes continue that circumstances will allow it to go to the ballot.  Meanwhile First 5 Yolo has stepped up to the plate, leading innovative strategies to create city and county development agreements and other strategies that would raise revenue with the cannabis industry.  They are also working to maximize use of the Mental Health Services Act funding.

Santa Cruz City and County

First 5 Santa Cruz is taking the initiative to explore revenue options at the county level.  An early step has been to advocate that the Board of Supervisors create a Thrive by Three Fund.  That Fund is serving as a stake in the ground to go from being a pilot project to being a permanent part of the budget.  Simultaneously, action occurred at the city level with the leadership of Councilwoman Martine Watkins.  She has proposed, and got passed, an increase of 1% in the city marijuana tax (amounting to 12% of the tax revenue), to create a new dedicated children and youth fund.  Despite fiscal problems in the city, the City of Santa Cruz Children’s Fund has stayed in place.  The city fund is used in part to support the county’s Thrive by Three Fund, and also provides scholarships for programs for the city’s low income children and youth.  And not to be outdone by Santa Cruz, the very small city of Capitola dedicated a portion of its hotel tax to early childhood and youth programs.  The tax was approved by the voters in 2018 with the ongoing set-aside for kids.

Long Beach

Khmer Girls in Action has been leading the charge in Long Beach for a children and youth fund since 2017.  They analyzed the city’s budget expenditures for kids and learned that only 5% is allocated to youth development programs.  They went on to survey 750 Long Beach residents on what resources and programs were needed in their community and found a major disconnect between what residents valued as priorities and how funds were spent.  They work collaboatively with the city to establish the fund and also as strong outside voices for change.  They succeeded in getting the city to put a placeholder in the budget for a Youth Fund and put a modest amount of money in the fund.  Their aspiration is still for a voter-approved dedicated funding stream.

Building Capacity and Coalitions

Los Angeles

In late 2018, a coalition, New Fund for Children and Youth, was formed in Los Angeles to explore the feasibility of a dedicated children and youth fund in the county.  The Coalition represents more than 40 organizations providing services for young people, ages 0 to 24.  A Steering Committee has been meeting throughout 2019, and has selected the Children’s Health Councils as its backbone, sponsoring organization.  The Coalition is building on the work of many organizations and coalitions fighting for adequate funding for positive child and youth development, including the Youth for Justice Coalition, Khmer Girls in Action in Long Beach, and First 5 Los Angeles.

San Diego

A steering committee was formed in 2016 to plan for a ballot measure.  75 non-profit leaders were convened to learn about the effort, and most expressed great enthusiasm and a commitment to help.  Two years later, Mid-City CAN has stepped up to lead the effort, with the hope of being on the 2020 or 2022 ballot.

In early 2020, a coalition of early care advocates and providers, convened by the YMCA of San Diego County, made the decision to advocate for local dollars for early care.  They had previously advocated only at the state level.  The coalition of over 25 organizational members  set as its first local priority addressing the loss of First 5 funding for the Quality Preschool Initiative.  The began a campaign that includes letters, meetings with decision makers, public testimony and public education.

San Bernardino

The Inland Empire Community Collaborative, a broad network of non-profits in San Bernardino County and other parts of what is known as the “inland empire,” was formed to make a collective impact in its related communities through collaboration, leveraging and resource development.  They aspire to have a dedicated revenue stream for the young people of their partnering counties.

Fresno

Several parallel conversations about dedicated funding for kids have occurred in Fresno for the past several years.  One effort is being organized by the Fresno branch of EBAYC.  They are specifically following the Oakland model for creating a youth fund, and completed a needs assessment survey to over 1700 youth which will be the basis of their work on a funding measure.  Meanwhile, advocates for parks placed a measure on the city ballot to fund parks – which did not get the 2/3 vote needed.  Compromises about a future measure are underway.  In addition, the Cradle to Career initiative works to lay out a comprehensive blueprint for the young people of Fresno County.  They then organize collaborative action networks to move from blueprint to action.  They have a long-held vision of revenue streams to support the goals of the community.

Contra Costa

Advocates for children in Contra Costa County have aspired to have a children’s fund for many years.  Supervisor John Gioia has been an longtime ally of this effort.  Advocates have joined with other human service providers and organizers to form the Contra Costa Budget Justice Coalition – which advocates for resources and transparency in the budget process.  Their big success in 2019 was to get the county to increase funding for non-profits through more effective use of, and “drawing down” of, state funding, such as Mental Health Services Act funding.  Linked below is the report they wrote that led to the funding increases.

Monterey

First 5 Monterey, under the leadership of Francine Rodd, has been searching for a viable dedicated revenue strategy for services for young children for some time.  They worked with MILPA (a Salinas-based grassroots collective to improve the health and well-being of the most impacted communities) on getting cannabis revenue for young people.  In 2019, they conducted a public opinion poll to explore public priorities and revenue options.  The results were promising in many ways, including the public’s high opinion of First 5.  They are moving forward with their journey by building partnerships, exploring multiple options, and communicating better about the urgency of early childhood services.

Santa Clara County

A Strong Start Coalition, spearheaded by the County Office of Education, in collaboration with community advocates, service providers and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, have been aspiring to have a Preschool for All measure for many years.  They have kept the dream alive despite many political and resource obstacles.  They continue to work with county leaders and elected officials to get funding for early care.  Stay tuned…….

San Benito

First 5 San Benito is launching its revenue strategy working in coalition with with multiple partners, including young people, to create a Family Impact Center in the county.  The partners include county agencies, county sheriff and probation, and the school district.  This coalition will serve them well as they move on to get dedicated funding.

Early Efforts

City of Merced

Del Norte County

First 5 Del Norte has led the effort to advocate for and create a Children’s Budget, that includes a resource map of existing services and an analysis of funding allocated to prevention versus late intervention.  It is now a tool for the community and the Board of Supervisors to use during annual budget processes.