by Tim Mudd
The U.S. Department of Education recently selected five communities to receive the first round of Promise Neighborhoods multi-year implementation grants and another 15 communities to receive a second round of one-year planning grants (see sidebar for the list of awardees).
Inspired by the successful Harlem Children's Zone in New York City, the Promise Neighborhood program will help grantee organizations and their partners build a continuum of "cradle-to-career" services for improving student achievement in high-poverty neighborhoods. In many of the winning communities, municipal officials are providing critical leadership to these neighborhood-based efforts.
The five implementation grant recipients will each receive up to $30 million to strengthen the educational pipeline for children in targeted neighborhoods through an integrated set of school improvement, early education, health care, afterschool and other strategies. The second round of $500,000 planning grants will fund initial activities to design a Promise Neighborhood, such as resource assessments and community forums.
"The 20 grantees are spread out across the country, reflecting a broader nationwide movement to revitalize struggling communities by providing better access to health care, social and safety services partnered with great schools," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Promise Neighborhoods is at the center of the Obama Administration's White House Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative, which seeks to align federal housing, education, justice and health programs in order to transform pockets of concentrated poverty into neighborhoods of opportunity.
Changing San Antonio's Philosophy Toward Education
In San Antonio, Texas, the local United Way will manage a $24.6 million, five-year implementation grant to bolster the Eastside Promise Neighborhood initiative that was launched with a 2010 federal planning grant. San Antonio's Eastside neighborhood is home to nearly 18,000 residents, many of whom face severe economic hardship. Trinity University researchers found that 60.1 percent of the children in the neighborhood live below the federal poverty line, and 34 percent live in households making less than half of the federal poverty standard.
Last spring, the San Antonio Housing Authority received a HUD Choice Neighborhood planning grant award with the Eastside Promise Neighborhood as the centerpiece. Both the Promise and Choice initiatives are working collaboratively to revitalize the 3.5-mile area to weave together quality education, improved housing and families' well-being.
The United Way will join the Mayor's Office, the City of San Antonio, the San Antonio Independent School District, the San Antonio Housing Authority and other key stakeholders to better coordinate services that contribute to children's academic success. Under Mayor Julián Castro's leadership, these partners have realigned neighborhood plans that were previously in direct conflict with each other. The city has also made substantial investments in the expansion of high-quality early education in the Eastside neighborhood, including a Very Early Childhood Center for children ages 0-5 and additional pre-kindergarten slots for 3- and 4-year-olds. As the local Head Start grantee, the city collaborates with school districts to coordinate Head Start and state-funded pre-K programming.
San Antonio's Eastside Promise Neighborhood proposal received the highest score of the 36 implementation grant applicants. "This will be a day we look back on a few years from now and say that's when San Antonio fundamentally changed its philosophy toward education," said Mayor Castro on the day of the grant announcement. "This grant recognizes the intersection between families, strong neighborhoods and schools."
"We Will Win in North Minneapolis."
Minneapolis is another implementation grant winner that has benefited from committed mayoral leadership. Mayor R.T. Rybak has been a strong supporter of the Northside Achievement Zone (NAZ) and believes the entire city will benefit as families in this neighborhood move out of poverty. North Minneapolis suffers from high rates of violence, multigenerational poverty and unemployment and has the second largest student achievement gap in the country. A collaborative of more than 50 service providers and schools, NAZ began as a pilot project in 2010 and was the only initiative selected for a Promise Neighborhood implementation grant that did not first receive a planning grant.
"The Promise Neighborhood funding will allow us to immediately scale up our services to reach many more families," said Sondra Samuels, CEO of NAZ. The initiative will receive $28 million over five years, allowing NAZ to grow from 150 pilot families to 1,200 families with 3,000 children. NAZ will increase the number of trained "family coaches" in the neighborhood who work one-on-one with families to help them achieve their goals and build a culture of achievement.
"This is the neighborhood that faced down a tornado," said Mayor Rybak at a press conference announcing the grant award. "This is the neighborhood that faced down a tsunami of foreclosures. This is the neighborhood that faced down an epidemic in youth violence. We will win in North Minneapolis... This should really be a call to arms for a crisis in this community that should not be tolerated."
Many other cities, including Boston and Saint Paul, Minn., have innovative neighborhood revitalization initiatives underway. However, a federal appropriation for the Promise Neighborhood program that was far smaller than the Administration's funding request prevented more of these city-led efforts from securing implementation grants for the next phase of their efforts.
Details: To learn more about the Promise Neighborhoods program, visit http://www2.ed.gov/programs/promiseneighborhoods/index.html.
Recipients of Promise Neighborhood Implementation Grants
Recipients of Promise Neighborhood Planning Grants