April 30, 2010

Promise Neighborhoods Program Is Officially Off the Ground

The Department of Education officially started the Promise Neighborhoods program today, inviting applications for $10-million in grants to plan comprehensive antipoverty projects in urban neighborhoods, rural areas, or tribal communities.

The department said it would award up to 20 one-year grants of between $400,000 and $500,000 for projects modeled after Harlem Children's Zone, a charity program that offers educational and social services to help poor children from birth to college in a nearly 100-block area in New York.

The application deadline is June 25, and grants will be awarded by September.

The department said applicants must:

  • Operate a school or work with at least one school.
  • Be a single entity, either a nonprofit group or higher-education institute, that is representative of the  geographic area that will be served.
  • Obtain matching funds of at least 25 percent or 50 percent of the grant amount requested, depending on the type of project.
  • Propose a plan for a full continuum of "cradle-through-college-to-career solutions" for children in the neighborhood.

Grantees will be expected to collect data about the needs of the neighorhood and to work with the education department on a "rigourous" system for evaluating the national Promise Neighborhoods program.

The June deadline gives groups little time to prepare their applications, although many organizations, usually working with coalitions, have been developing projects for months in anticipation of today's announcement, says Patrick Lester, senior vice president for public policy at United Neighborhood Centers of America, which tracks Promise Neighborhoods on its Building Neighborhoods blog.

Mr. Lester says he hopes foundations will respond the way they did to another federal program, Investing in Innovation, which provides grants for school-improvement projects. Twelve foundations announced yesterday they are providing $506-million to bolster the education program.

"We hope the foundation community will find a way to help these disadvantaged communities provide or find the private money," Mr. Lester says.

President Obama has requested $210-million in the 2011 budget for both additional Promise Neighborhood planning grants and five-year grants to help groups carry out their projects.

See The Chronicle's article about groups developing projects along the lines of Promise Neighborhoods.