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San Franciscans Approve Plan To Protect Children's Services

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San Francisco voters last week approved a city-charter amendment designed to protect children's programs fi@om budget cuts and to generate additional money for such services through property-tax revenues.

The measure, Proposition J, was approved by a vote of 93,193 to 77,647, winning almost 55 percent of the ballots cast, according to figures provided last week. The amendment is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation. (See Education Week, Oct. 23, 1991 .)

The proposition's victory "sends a message to advocates for children around the country, which is [that] going to the electorate on behalf of children can work, and people will accept the idea that children need protected funding," said Margaret Brodkin, the executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, a local nonprofit group that spearheaded the campaign to place the proposal on the ballot.

The measure will amend the city charter to bar reductions for the next 10 years in children's services below a base level to be set by the city controller within 90 days of the election. In addition, it will dedicate 2.5 percent of existing property-tax revenues to new and current children's programs, raising an estimated $6 million the first year and $13 million the second year.

The measure's backers included a diverse array of more than 60 organizations and advocacy groups. Its opponents included the city's chamber of commerce and the local Republican Party.

Christopher L. Bowman, the secretary of the San Francisco Republican Party, said the measure's passage "opens the door to any other group that wants to get earmarked funds."

"That will tie the hands of the board of supervisors and mayor in setting budget priorities," he said. "Ams, housing, other health care, mental health--all of these other programs are going to take a hit because of this being there." --D.C. & P.S.

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