Monday, February 22, 2010

Gearing Up for Promise Neighborhoods

While the President’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative has created much excitement and commentary within the public and private sectors, little is still known about how this much-anticipated initiative will be rolled out. On February 1, 2010, President Obama proposed $210 million in funding for Promise Neighborhoods in fiscal year 2011. This new funding is in addition to the $10 million already allocated late last year by Congress. Yet, many questions remain unanswered: How many Promise Neighborhoods will be chosen? How much money will communities have to match in order to access funds? What kinds of neighborhoods will be eligible? How will success be defined and measured? Details are said to be soon forthcoming from the administration. In the meantime, advocates are putting forward their own predictions.

In Promise Neighborhood Tea Leaves, Patrick Lester of United Neighborhood Centers of America predicts that the initiative will either be rolled out through a legislative proposal in the planned reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA), or, if Congress moves too slowly with ESEA, through the annual appropriations process - similar to how funding for Choice Neighborhoods was authorized. Once authorized, how the money gets to which communities is another issue. The Harlem Children’s Zone’s budget is $60-70 million per year. Lester estimates that in order to have enough money to spread around in a way that would have large scale impact, the administration is going to opt for a slow ramp up to its 20 Promise Neighborhoods, ultimately choosing 5-7 neighborhoods per year for implementation. So while as many as 20 neighborhoods might receive planning grant money, only a fraction will move to the implementation phase of this initiative. Lester also guesses that at the initial stage of the planning grants, Promise Neighborhoods would follow language of the recently released Social Innovation Fund guidelines, matching federal funding dollar for dollar with other non-federal funding from state, local, private, and philanthropic sources.

Some cities have already started the initial footwork to prepare for this initiative by holding community meetings, strengthening community coalitions, building partnerships with the private sector, and requesting technical assistance from other experts to develop their proposals. This is certainly true for three Chicago neighborhoods – Woodlawn, Logan Square, and Chicago Lawn. However, some communities, such as City Heights in San Diego, have the enviable concern of answering whether they could handle the potential influx of more money. Neighborhoods like City Heights that may have the best chance of garnering Promise Neighborhood funding due to preexisting partnerships in the private sector worry about how the increased demands associated with more money would impact the community’s vision and capacity.

CSSP will be sure to provide updates as more concrete information becomes available. In the meantime, several organizations have already provided advice and comments on this initiative. CSSP’s Focusing on Results in Promise Neighborhoods: Recommendations for the Federal Initiative, recommends a core set of results for poor children and families that should drive the overall planning, design, implementation and evaluation of the Promise Neighborhoods initiative. These core results are divided into four categories:1) children are healthy and prepared for school entry; 2) children and youth are healthy and succeed in school; 3) youth graduate from high school and college; and 4) families and neighborhoods support the healthy development, academic success, and well-being of their children.

We invite you to also review the following resources:

Outcomes and Indicators for Children: An Analysis to Inform Discussions About Promise Neighborhoods, Child Trends

Promise Neighborhoods: A Planning How-To Guide, Alliance for Children and Families and United Neighborhood Center for America

Promise Neighborhoods: Recommendations for a National Children’s Anti-Poverty Program, Policy Link and Harlem Children’s Zone

Realizing the Promise of Promise Neighborhoods, The Bridgespan Group

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