Today, Congressman Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10) introduced The Promise Neighborhoods Act, which will make permanent the federal funding of Promise Neighborhoods, a program that provides competitive grants to support neighborhood-based, cradle-to-career educational and social support programs for children in distressed neighborhoods.
"Promise Neighborhoods makes education of our children a team effort among leading organizations in our communities that know best how to address the challenges these children face in receiving a quality education," said Rep. Payne, Jr. "We know that children who live in poverty fall behind their peers in reading and math, and we know that they are more likely to drop out of school before receiving a diploma. My bill will help level the playing field for these children and make education a priority and the responsibility of an entire community, not just our teachers."
Promise Neighborhoods is a holistic community-based approach that provides educational, social, and family learning tools to get children in low-income communities to and through college. Though Promise Neighborhoods is already in existence under the Department of Education, it is not a permanent program, and instead, it is included as a line-item request in President Obama's budget every year. Rep. Payne Jr.'s bill would guarantee this critical educational funding regardless of who is in the Oval Office.
Among the ten funded planning grants awarded in 2012, the Newark Fairmount Promise Neighborhood Partnership received a planning grant in the amount of $498,772. Led by Rutgers University, the community-based partnership includes the City of Newark, the Urban League of Essex County, the United Way of Essex and West Hudson, Newark Public School District, the Newark Police Department, the Office of the Mayor, the local Small Business Development Center and a local community college.
"If we can pass this bill, we can strengthen and make permanent the Promise Neighborhoods program that is already making a tremendous impact in my district," said Rep. Payne, Jr. "We have to make the education of our young people a priority. We owe it to them, and the future of our great state depends on it."
The Promise Neighborhoods Act would create one-year planning grants and five-year implementation grants, which may be renewed once to better support systemic changes. To date, Promise Neighborhoods funding totals nearly $100 million awarded to over 50 communities representing more than 700 schools. However, due to budgetary restraints, the Promise Neighborhoods program is unable to fully reach its potential of impact. Of the 175 planning grant applications that were received in 2012, only 10 were funded because of budgetary restrictions, and of the 46 implementation grant applications that were received in 2012, only 7 were funded due to budgetary restrictions.
The Promise Neighborhoods Act being introduced by Rep. Payne, Jr. is expected to be included in upcoming legislation in the Senate introduced by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), more commonly known as No Child Left Behind. The Senate version of the bill is expected to go to committee mark-up sometime
Promise Neighborhoods Legislation
Grantees are required to use funds to provide, among other things:
Pre-natal education and support for expecting parents;
High-quality early care and education opportunities, including full-day,
full-year kindergarten, and pre-kindergarten;
High-quality schools that successfully leverage out-of-school time
and community engagement;
Support for the transition to elementary school, between elementary school
and middle school, and from middle school to high school;
Meaningful family engagement and capacity building;
College and career readiness activities, including college counseling,
subsidized employment opportunities, and early college programs; and
Neighborhood-based support for college-age students from the