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Mayor touts child care spending as way to counter municipal ills

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By committing to spend more than $130 million on child care services, Mayor Gavin Newsom hopes to tackle two of The City’s biggest issues: family flight and the effects of the homicide rate on kids.

Newsom, gearing up to release his draft budget on May 31, announced Wednesday at Ida B. Wells High School that he wants to spend $34.8 million more on children’s services compared to last year. Doing so would push city spending on children’s services $2.75 million over the legal requirement.

Newsom has earmarked $2 million for children on probation, which will help fund a job-placement program. He said if a child "makes a few mistakes, we are not giving up on you."

He has also set aside $2 million for the citywide after-school program, which would give about 1,000 children a safe place to go.

In addition, Newsom proposes spending $1.7 million on wellness centers in The City’s public high schools to help students "deal with the stress of hearing gunshots every night." He has also earmarked $900,000 for universal child care for homeless children.

But some criticized Newsom’s proposed budget for coming up short. N’Tanya Lee, executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth, said she is "disappointed it doesn’t fully address the budget items of keeping families in The City."

The children’s advocacy group wants Newsom to put another $1 million in child care to bring the funding to $3 million, and an additional $1 million into rental assistance.

Lee said the additional funding would do more to curb the trend of families leaving The City. Since 1960, the number of children in The City dropped by nearly 70,000, according to a March report by the children’s advocacy group. Of the families who left, 62 percent were low- or middle-income,the report said.

Others praised Newsom’s budget. Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi said he was pleased with the funding levels and that it would "stop a hemorrhaging of families leaving San Francisco."

Claudia Anderson, principal of Ida B. Wells High School, said she anticipates receiving $150,000 to establish the school’s first wellness center this fall. She said it would go a long way in helping children cope with "personal trauma."

Jim Warshell, a board member of the Hayes Valley Neighborhood Association, said the funding would likely cut down on crime. "Obviously, if we don’t do this, we are going to have another terrible summer," Warshell said, referring to last year’s 96 record-setting homicides.

The Board of Supervisors will review Newsom’s budget next month.

jsabatini@examiner.com