San Francisco is the first city in the nation to create a city-funded savings account for school children. The pilot program will kick off with 1,200 kindergartners or about one-fourth of those enrolled in public schools.
"The only way school districts are successful is when the entire city, communities get behind them and start believing in the children," San Francisco Schools Superintendent Carlos Garcia said.
The amount is not large; just $50 of seed money or $100 for low-income students. But the idea is that private corporations and non-profits will provide matching grants. Parents are also encouraged to chip in as little as $5 or $10 a month over the next 12 years.
"She [her daughter Ingrid] has set so many goals," parent Julissa Cruz said through a translator.
San Francisco's program is unique, but there are others emphasizing the importance of a college education.
A non-profit has given $1,000 college scholarships to fifth graders at an Oakland charter school called Think College Now.
"That's something that is tangible, that's something that's powerful and that is going to make sure they stay motivated," Think College Now School Principal David Silver said.
San Francisco's budget authorizes $257,000 to get the program started. Supervisor Sean Elsbernd thinks that's irresponsible given the current financial climate.
"I do not believe now is the time to extend ourselves into a new entitlement program that could very well cost us millions in the future," he said.
"You make investments, you don't just make cuts," San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom said.
Citibank is setting up the accounts and non-profit organization EARN has already agreed to match money that families contribute. The program begins December 1.