Paul Tough in NYTimes: Promise Neighborhoods Combat Poverty

16 Aug 2012 |

Paul Tough’s article in the Sunday New York Times Magazine highlights Promise Neighborhoods as part of President Obama’s ambitious agenda to combat community-level poverty (paragraphs about Promise Neighborhoods from the article are copied below).

We want to let the nation know how much we’ve been able to accomplish using the Promise Neighborhoods model, and how much we have planned to accomplish to break the cycle of generational poverty and provide our children with better futures.

Let’s get the word out! Share this article on your blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, and write a comment on the New York Times article page that mentions your Promise Neighborhood and the great work going on.

Can we get at least 20 comments on the New York Times site by the end of today??

From “What Does Obama Really Believe In?” by Paul Tough, in the NYTimes:

With a nod to the ideas of William Julius Wilson, Obama made the case that inner-city poverty is qualitatively different from other strains of poverty. “What’s most overwhelming about urban poverty is that it’s so difficult to escape,” he said. “It’s isolating, and it’s everywhere.”

Addressing this kind of poverty was neither simple nor straightforward, Obama said. “If poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can’t just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community.”

Obama laid out an ambitious agenda to do just that. At its center was a proposal to expand the work of Geoffrey Canada and his organization, the Harlem Children’s Zone, which takes an intensive and comprehensive approach to child development in a 97-block high-poverty neighborhood in central Harlem, providing poor children with not just high-quality charter schools but also parenting programs, preschools, a medical clinic, a farmers’ market, family counseling and help with college applications. (My 2008 book, “Whatever It Takes,” is a profile of Canada and a history of the Children’s Zone.)

“When I’m president,” Obama said, “the first part of my plan to combat urban poverty will be to replicate the Harlem Children’s Zone in 20 cities across the country.” With a candor unusual for a presidential candidate, Obama acknowledged the high price of his program: “Now, how much will this cost?” he asked. “I’ll be honest — it can’t be done on the cheap. It will cost a few billion dollars a year. . . . But we will find the money to do this because we can’t afford not to.”

Looking back at the Anacostia speech today, what is striking about Obama’s proposal, beyond its size and scope, was that he didn’t conceive of it as just one more federal spending program. It was, instead, something more potentially disruptive: a thorough overhaul of existing federal aid to inner cities, a blueprint for a more coordinated, more effective, more responsive way to direct the often haphazard flow of government money into urban neighborhoods devastated by the multiple effects of concentrated poverty. It represented a break from the past: a new way of doing things in neighborhoods like Roseland.

As president, Obama has followed a very different path from the one he described in Anacostia. The Promise Neighborhoods program exists, but it is a small item tucked away in the discretionary budget of the Department of Education. Rather than devoting “a few billion dollars a year,” his administration has spent a total of $40 million on the program in the last three years, with another $60 million in grants going out to community groups later this year. A few other initiatives have focused on concentrated urban poverty, but they are mostly small and scattered. Instead, the antipoverty path that Obama has pursued looks more like a traditional Great Society Democratic approach: his administration has spent billions of dollars on direct aid to poor people, mostly working-poor families.