Education Funding

‘Promise’ Program Begins Gearing Up

By Alyson Klein — May 11, 2010 1 min read

Communities and nonprofit organizations are now invited to apply for federal grants to help plan “Promise Neighborhoods,” schools or networks of schools that offer a range of support services, from health assistance to college counseling.

The programs would be modeled on New York City’s Harlem Children’s Zone, which has earned national accolades for its success in raising the achievement of disadvantaged children. The community-based organization serves 17,000 children living in a nearly 100-block area in Harlem.

After studying such models, some lawmakers are seeking to make sure that when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is revamped, it will include increased support services. But they are scratching their heads about how to pay for all those new librarians, mentors, college counselors, and after-school-program administrators.

The $10 million the new Promise Neighborhoods program received for the current fiscal year appears to be a small start. The money will be used for up to 20 grants of $400,000 to $500,000 each. Applicants will be expected to focus their programs on preparing students for college or a career. Nonprofit groups, including faith-based organizations, as well as institutions of higher education, are eligible to apply.

The grants are one-year planning grants to help applicants pinpoint their communities’ needs and figure out how to address them. The Obama administration has asked Congress for $210 million more for the program in the fiscal 2011 budget request, some of which could be used for implementation grants.

The program has already generated great interest in the field, said Kay Fernandez Smith, an associate director of Policylink, an Oakland, Calif.-based research and action institute that has partnered with the Harlem Children’s Zone to develop a policy framework based on the New York program’s work.

I think people are really inspired by the work of the Harlem Children’s Zone and really thinking about how they can take that back to their own communities, Ms. Fernandez Smith said.

A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 2010 edition of Education Week as ‘Promise’ Program Begins Gearing Up

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