Sec. Duncan Talks Up Promise Neighborhoods!

27 Jul 2011 |

At the hearing on the FY 2012 Dept of Education Budget this morning, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan made the following statement about the Obama Administration’s budget request for FY 2012:

“Our request would significantly boost funding for the Promise Neighborhoods program to $150 million to support comprehensive, innovative and cost effective approaches to meeting the full range of student needs, drawing on the contributions of schools, community-based organizations, local agencies, foundations, and private businesses. Also the request would maintain funding for safe school programming designed to reduce substance use, violence, and bullying while providing states with greater ability to adapt interventions to school needs and drive resources to the most unsafe schools.”

And that’s not all! At the end of his testimony, Sec. Duncan fielded a question from Senator Pryor of Arkansas about Promise Neighborhoods. Transcript below (Watch the webcast for yourself–the section below starts at minute 78:32)!

Senator Pryor: I want to ask first about the Promise Neighborhoods program. This is something the University of Arkansas at Little Rock was able to get a planning grant for FY 2010, and I’m curious about your view of how the Promise Neighborhood projects are going, what kinds of results you’re seeing out there, and what kind of end results you’re going for.

Arne Duncan: This is a hugely important initiative to me. Particularly in our nation’s most distressed, most disadvantaged communities, the only way we strengthen those communities is by increasing the quality of education and building community support for that work, and building the kind of wraparound services and nonprofit partnerships that help schools to be successful in very tough communities. We were fortunate to be able to fund twenty planning grants—that being one of them—around the country. We had 300 applicants, and we had many more highly creative, thoughtful proposals that I would have loved to have funded that we simply didn’t have the money to do. In FY 2011 we have $30 million, and we’re going to do a combination of starting to fund some programs, some communities, for implementation, and others to continue to plan, but we would like to see a significant increase in the investment in Promise Neighborhoods for FY 2012 to really start to move to implementation across the country. And if in very poor rural communities—we have one planning grant in an Indian reservation, a Native American reservation—in distressed inner city communities where we can get the kind of results that Geoffrey Canada has done in the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York, dramatically transforming the life chances of young people there, we can prove, demonstrate, that communities can come together to help the most challenged children and families be very successful academically. So we think this is the right investment, it is early on, there is much greater need and capacity out there than we’re able to fund, and that’s what’s heartbreaking to me. There are people doing amazingly thoughtful work, collaborating, partnering in ways that have never been done before. We need to support that effort to not scale back, and so we would respectfully ask for significant increase in funding to move toward implementation to a wide variety of communities around the country.

Sen. Pryor: I think that’s great. So you’re seeing what you’d hoped to see out there, which is communities coming together and really getting great things done, and now you’re getting to the implementation stage.

Arne Duncan: And we were blown away by the number of applicants, the quality of applicants, and again, we were able to fund twenty, twenty-one; there were probably over a hundred that I would have felt great about investing in. I was thrilled to do the ones we did, I would love to have the chance to invest in many other communities.