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An A+ Eye on Education

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As the story goes, piggy banks represent luck and good fortune. The Piggy Bank Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, boasts 12,000 different pigs. Wow! That’s a lot of pigs. But is it? I went to the Guinness Book of Records to see if I could find the county in the United States with the highest number of piggy banks. Guinness doesn’t keep track, but they could.

Imagine if, annually, every child received a piggy bank and Child Savings Account on their fourth birthday. Let’s do the math. Each year in San Joaquin County, we have about 8,500 children turn 4. So in two years we’d have far more banks than Amsterdam’s museum, and we’d get in the Guinness Book of Records.

Piggy banks are symbolic and when coupled with CSAs, they become concrete symbols to teach persistence, goal setting and the value of delayed gratification.

So let’s start with a great idea that should only expand. I call this “Child Savings Accounts: Every Four-Year-Old Should Have One!”

Thanks to a collective effort throughout the county, San Joaquin A+ applied to the state of California for a competitive grant to provide child savings accounts to four-year-old kids who attend high-quality preschool programs in San Joaquin County. The state allocated $10 million dollars for this effort, and we, San Joaquin County, received $4.6 million, the largest grant in the entire state. 

What are CSAs? CSAs, or 529 plans, are tax-advantaged savings accounts designed to be used for educational expenses. The deposits made in each child’s CSA will be invested in assets such as stocks and bonds and appreciate over time. 

Beginning this year, four-year-olds in families that attend a quality pre-school program can receive a $750 Child Savings Account. The account will provide each youngster with funds to be used for education after high school. Think college, community college, trades and apprenticeship programs. 

Of course, these funds are focused on qualified families but everyone could, and in my opinion, should have a CSA at age four. Any HERLIFE Magazine reader can start a CSA on behalf of a loved one. I did for my granddaughter, who is turning four soon.

“So why?” you ask. Here are some reasons I find compelling:

• You instill a habit of saving.
• CSA’s promote goal setting. Learning to set goals and achieve them at an early age builds persistence and aspiration. Start with money in your piggy bank and then transfer it to your child’s CSA.
• Children with college savings accounts score higher on measures of social-emotional development.
• Children with CSAs are two times more likely to have their own savings account later in life.

So, HERLIFE readers, consider opening a 529 Child Savings Account for your child or a loved one who’s about to turn four. If you own a business, consider making a small contribution to any employees who set up CSAs when their children have their fourth birthday. If you are interested, my colleague, Tony Gladney, at, can provide you with information.

To learn more and share comments or other story ideas:

Visit the SJA+ website at
Email me at

By: Don Shalvey

Dr. Don Shalvey is the CEO of San Joaquin A+. He is widely recognized as an innovative leader in public education. Don’s career includes roles as a teacher and principal, ten years as superintendent in San Carlos, founding both California’s first charter school and Aspire Public Schools, and 11 years as a deputy director for K-12 education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Dr. Shalvey is a frequent advisor to policy makers and school system leaders. The prestigious Ashoka Foundation recognized Don as a Fellow for his outstanding work as a social entrepreneur. Don brings a half-century of experience to the boards he serves, including his role as a Regent at the University of Pacific, the oldest chartered university in California. Don earned an EdD in educational leadership and administration from the University of Southern California, an EdM in counseling and guidance from Gonzaga University and a BA from LaSalle University.