On Nov. 6, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously approved giving every incoming first grader in the Los Angeles Unified School District a savings account dedicated for higher education.
The Children’s Savings Account program, dubbed Opportunity LA, has been pioneered by City Councilman David Ryu, 4th District, in partnership with County Supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas, 2nd District, and Hilda L. Solis, 1st District, and LAUSD Board Members Nick Melvoin, 4th District, and Monica Garcia, 2nd District.
Modeled after existing CSA programs in San Francisco, Boston, St. Louis, and other cities and states, Opportunity LA will be the nation’s largest, establishing dedicated savings accounts with $50 seed deposits for every student enrolled in an LAUSD public or affiliated charter school.
“Opportunity LA is about more than dollars and cents; it’s about the worth of every child in Los Angeles,” Ryu said. “This is a city where 80% of our students live at or below the poverty line and where vast inequality in education continues to exist. Opportunity LA tells our young people that no matter your background, your immigration status or what zip code you live in, you have a right to a brighter future – and we want to invest in you.”
The CSA program will roll out in the 2020-21 academic year for an initial 10% of LAUSD first graders, or roughly 4,000 students. Within five years, it will grow to include every LAUSD first-grader, automatically granting them a dedicated savings account when they enroll.
Following the council vote, it will be voted on by the L.A. County Board of Supervisors, where it has been championed by Ridley-Thomas and Solis, and the LAUSD Board, where the effort has been led by Melvoin, later this year.
“This initiative may start with a small, simple investment, but it has the potential to produce big, life-changing results for our students,” Melvoin said.
Data has shown that a child from a low-income family with up to $500 in a dedicated savings account is three times more likely to enroll in, and four times more likely to graduate from, post-secondary education than a similar child from a low-income background with no savings. In a school district with many unhoused students and children from low-income families, a CSA program could produce remarkable results for high school graduation rates and enrollment in higher education.
Opportunity LA is fully funded for the first two years through state and federal grants. Earlier this year, the state Legislature approved $25 million in the state budget to support the development of local CSA programs, an allocation strongly supported by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
For information, visit davidryu.lacity.org/children_s_savings_account_program.
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