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San Francisco’s preschool program ahead of schedule

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San Francisco’s free preschool program is expanding so 4-year-olds in every ZIP code can get a leg up on kindergarten, Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to announce today.

The program, called Preschool for All, was launched after voters passed Proposition H in November 2004, an annual set-aside that provides city funds for public schools along with a universal preschool program.

San Francisco’s Preschool for All program started in 2005 with 1,000 4-year-olds and will now accommodate 4,800 of The City’s 6,000 4-year-olds, according to Nathan Ballard, spokesman for Newsom’s office.

The program rollout — providing a free half-day preschool for all 4-year-olds, regardless of income — was originally scheduled to be implemented citywide by 2009.

“We were quite ambitious by going universal a year early; we anticipated it next year, but we’re doing it sooner because we’re in a good place and it’s a benefit all children ought to have,” said Gloria Corral, deputy director for First Five.

In addition to Proposition H funds, which are contributing $11.5 million to the free program this school year, Preschool for All is supported by $6.5 million annually from statewide Proposition 10, the cigarette tax, and more from state gas taxes.

“San Francisco is the only county in California willing to invest in what I believe is our single most important resource: our children and their future,” Newsom told The Examiner on Monday. “We still have some work to do, but by investing wisely and over the long term in quality initiatives like preschool, after-school, classroom materials and teacher pay, we can provide our children with the tools they will need to succeed in life.”

Supervisor Tom Ammiano, a former preschool teacher who authored Proposition H, said preschool is a must for today’s children.

“Preschool has always benefited any kid who’s in it,” Ammiano said. “I hate to see an uneven playing field, and good preschool experience helps with that leveling.”

bwinegarner@sfexaminer.com

 

 

 

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