Los Angeles to consider savings account program for first-graders

First grade class at San Pedro Elementary School in Los Angeles. ( Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images )

A Los Angeles City Council committee Wednesday forwarded a proposal to create a children's savings account program that could begin in the first grade.

The council's Health, Education, Neighborhoods, Parks, Arts and River Committee approved a motion to create a savings program for every child enrolled in Los Angeles Unified School District public and affiliated charter schools.

"There isn't another school district or student population in the country that is more deserving or more in need," City Councilman David Ryu added. "Eighty percent of the students in LAUSD fall under the federal poverty line and are eligible for free or reduced school meals, and 17% of LAUSD students are homeless. These kids are exactly who a children's savings account program like this will give a much-needed leg up to."

Ryu said he worked with the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education to establish a dedicated savings account with $50 in seed money for every first-grader in LAUSD. If approved by City Council, it would establish the largest CSA program in the United States, Ryu said.

If the program is approved, it would begin during the 2020-2021 academic year for an initial 10% of LAUSD first-graders, about 4,000 students. Within five years, it would grow to include all first-graders, regardless of income, background or immigration status.

Ryu's office said similar programs exist in San Francisco, Boston, St. Louis and other cities, and data has shown that a low-income child with up to $500 in savings is three times more likely to enroll in and four times more likely to graduate from post-secondary education than a similar low-income child with no savings.

"Too many children are implicitly told that they aren't good enough, rich enough, or worthy enough for a college education," said Ryu, who chairs the council's HENPAR Committee. "As a city, we can be the voice that says yes. Yes, you can graduate high school. Yes, you can go to college, and yes, you can reach for a bigger and brighter future."

The program is expected to be heard in City Council Nov. 6.