Chicago loses out on Promise Neighborhood grants

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Chicago neighborhoods lost their bid for federal money to plan “Promise
Neighborhoods,” an Obama Administration initiative that aims to
replicate the well-known Harlem Children’s Zone. In announcing the 21 winners, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the
$10 million in planning grants is a  “down payment”  toward re-developing
some of the nation’s most distressed communities and the educational
experience of children who live within them.

Chicago neighborhoods lost their bid for federal money to plan “Promise Neighborhoods,” a U.S. Department of Education initiative that aims to replicate the well-known Harlem Children’s Zone.

In announcing the 21 winners, Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the $10 million in planning grants is a “down payment” toward re-developing some of the nation’s most distressed communities and the educational experience of children who live within them.

Among the winners are organizations in New York, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles.

President Barack Obama initially asked Congress for $210 million for the project in fiscal year 2011, but a Senate subcommittee gutted that to $20 million this summer.

Community organizations in five Chicago neighborhoods—Englewood, Roseland, Logan Square and Chicago Lawn—applied for the grant. In Logan Square and Roseland, the officials at these organizations say they will continue to work with the schools.

In Roseland on the Far South Side, SGA Youth and Family Services had planned to focus its activity around Roseland Preparatory Academy, a charter school slated to open next year. The money would have paid for additional services and supports for families at the school. SGA still plans to play a big role in the school, said Les Inch, vice president of performance planning and policy. SGA launched a fundraising campaign in May and continues to rely heavily on support from private donors. 

“From the beginning of our planning, SGA has been committed to seeing Roseland Children’s initiative implemented, regardless of whether we received a fed planning grant or not,” Inch says.

SGA also works with Curtis Elementary and Fenger High, two turnaround schools in the neighborhood. 

The Logan Square Neighborhood Association works with neighborhood public schools and Northeastern Illinois University to develop after-school programs and strengthen the relationship between schools and the community.

“We’re committed to getting the whole family involved in education, and our work has been very successful doing that,” says Executive Director Nancy Aardema. “We’re disappointed [to hear about the grant], but we understand.” 

Aardema says that LSNA will continue the work it has been doing with its partners and strengthen and develop its early childhood program.