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Politics & Policy

Children’s agency cut from charter amendment targeting Board of Education

Mayor London Breed’s proposed charter amendment to hold the San Francisco Board of Education accountable and develop a new “Children’s Agency” was sliced in half to give city agencies and advocacy groups more time to build out a coordinated proposal.

All mention of a “Children’s Agency”—which would have grouped services like recreation and nutrition programming for kids within one centralized city office—was stripped from Breed’s proposal after the San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Rules Committee agreed on the first set of amendments to the initiative Jan. 26.

The measure, originally billed as the “Children’s First Initiative,” proposed an amendment to the city’s charter to address both accountability reforms for the San Francisco Board of Education and to form a Children’s Agency that would consolidate. 

But on Wednesday, the rules committee unanimously adopted Supervisor Myrna Melgar’s amendments removing all mention of the Children’s Agency from the ballot initiative and renaming the bill the “Better Schools Initiative.” The board is set to meet again this coming Monday to vote on the latest version of the proposed charter amendment before it can go to the full Board of Supervisors for consideration. 

At Monday’s rules committee meeting—which was continued to Wednesday due to technical issues—Melgar contended that the various agencies the “Children’s Agency” would combine hadn’t had enough time to provide meaningful input on the proposal. She asked to split the two concepts and move forward with the Board of Education accountability piece alone.

“The message we are hearing loud and clear is that we need more time to deliberate and to ensure that we’re placing before the voters things that will transform the lives of youth and families and will ultimately be something that we can all feel proud of,” Melgar said.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen opposes the charter amendment in its entirety and spoke on Monday dismissing the proposal as little more than “political finger-wagging” and an “insulting overreach of power” that sets a “dangerous precedent.”

“It was crafted behind closed doors over a 9-month period without any community input whatsoever, something that we should know doesn’t work in San Francisco, especially when it shuts out the tight-knit and uber-active early childhood and school advocacy community,” Ronen said.

Ronen said she plans to prepare her own charter amendment to oversee the Board of Education and hold it accountable while increasing city funding for San Francisco’s public schools. Ronen’s staff said the details of that plan have yet to be announced, but that they intend to draft a proposal for the November ballot.