Illustration: Valeria Olguín

The “Early Care and Education for All” initiative (also known as Proposition C) that voters approved in June 2018, was supposed to help ease the financial burden on thousands of San Francisco families, but before any of the funds could be allocated to those in need, the initiative was challenged in court.

The funding for Prop C, expected to be in the neighborhood of $142 million, would be raised from taxes imposed on the “lease of commercial property for landlords with annual gross receipts over $1 million.” Prop C would also impose a new 1 percent tax on gross receipts for warehouse space, and 3.5 percent of gross receipts for other commercial properties, to fund childcare and early education programs.

The challenge to the popular initiative came from Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA), an advocacy group for wealthy property owners, that has asserted that Prop C is invalid because it didn’t receive enough votes.

“Because the tax is expressly for a special purpose, it required a 2/3 vote of the city’s electorate under both Propositions 13 and 218. But it did not pass by that margin. Rather, the tax proposal, designated as Measure C, received a scant 50.87% vote,” read a post on the HJTA website.

HJTA, named for anti-tax activist Howard Jarvis—himself a driving force behind the passage of Prop 218’s predecessor, Proposition 13 (1978)—has for more than 25 years been deeply involved in challenging any attempt by voters to levy taxes on the wealthy. The organization’s president, Jon Coupal, co-authored Proposition 218 in 1998, which has since come to be regarded as one of the most consequential amendments to California’s constitution. Prop 218 has made it all but impossible for the state to raise taxes, and many credit the measure for much of the ongoing dysfunction in the state’s budget process.

Prop C was designed to fund childcare and early education programs provided by organizations like the nonprofit Children’s Council of San Francisco, which has been supporting and promoting children’s rights for many years in the city.

“This initiative has been something very important for Children’s Council, especially because it is aligned with our mission, which is basically to be able to serve and meet the needs that some families have in San Francisco”, said Claudia Quinonez, who is manager of strategic innovations and partnerships at Children’s Council.

The Children’s Council’s main purpose is to try to help low-income families who do not have enough resources in order to raise and meet their children’s needs.

Prop C would help low-income parents better themselves though being given the chance to attain education and gain professional experience. With the help of the program, these parents could finish their studies and work, and at the same time, their children would grow up in a quality environment.

“It was a decision of the community, the community voted for this proposal,” said Maria Antoneta Jandres, a mom and active member of Parent Voices.

Jandres is one of the many mothers in San Francisco that is being helped by the subsidies that the Children’s Council provide. She has been able to raise her family and finish her studies, thanks to the financial and social aid she has received.

But helping families like Jandres’ has also become a continuous struggle for the Children’s Council, which relies on government funding like that provided by Prop C.

The fate of the measure as of now is uncertain, but Jandres and Claudia Quinonez, as well as the rest of the families across the city, are holding out hope that the money will come through.

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera issued an answer to the HJTA complaint in September of last year, and the case is will head to a court trial on Oct. 21, 2019.