July 21, 2010; Source: Good Education | How interesting—and how disturbing—that President Obama’s flagship programs for the nonprofit sector have been less than avidly supported by Congress. First it was the Social Innovation Fund, which was reduced from the president’s request of $50 million to $35 million where it would have stayed hadn’t the White House weighed in strongly for its recommendation.
Now, implementation funding for the Promise Neighborhoods program, meant to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone, is in danger. Over 330 applications have been submitted for the $10 million in Promise Neighborhoods planning money, but with a pittance of implementation money, what will the winners be planning for?
The President’s request for Promise Neighborhoods implementation money was originally $210 million, but a House Appropriations subcommittee has lopped off most of the money, leaving only $60 million. Patrick Lester, author and the nation’s most intrepid advocate for the Promise Neighborhoods appropriation, doesn’t buy the idea that $60 million is a good number given the crummy budget situation that President Obama faces. If the appropriation stays at $60 million, Lester and his colleague, Hayling Price, think that that would be enough money for only two or three Promise Neighborhood projects.
The alternative, which they don’t address in this article, is funding more sites, but at much lower levels of funding—with obviously much truncated visions of what might be replicated from the Harlem Children’s Zone. While it is hardly clear that anyone can really replicate what Geoffrey Canada (with access to the checkbooks of Stanley Druckenmiller and George Soros) was able to do in Harlem, there is no question that a shrunken Promise Neighborhoods budget will mean a neighborhood program with little of the Harlem Children’s Zone promise or potential.—Rick Cohen