Posts Tagged ‘Obama’
Bill Moyers comments on my Times Magazine article on Roseland, poverty, and Barack Obama. More here.
Some reactions to my article in the Times Magazine on President Obama, Roseland, and poverty:
1. Whet Moser at Chicagomag.com makes the point that Obama’s healthcare reforms are arguably themselves an anti-poverty program (and one I didn’t give much space to in the piece).
2. Amanda Erickson at the Atlantic’s Cities blog reflects on why the Harlem Children’s Zone hasn’t been replicated more successfully. (I agree with her that Geoffrey Canada is a rare leader, but I think there are lots of other great leaders out there.)
3. Jared Bernstein weighs in on jobs, schools, and the Furman Effect.
4. And the folks at Longreads chose the article as one of the week’s best.
My new article on poverty, Barack Obama, and the Chicago neighborhood of Roseland is now online on the New York Times’s website. It will be the cover story in the Times Magazine this weekend.
This week, Prince, the musician, gave $250,000 to the Eau Claire Promise Zone, a group that is trying to emulate the Harlem Children’s Zone in the Eau Claire neighborhood of Columbia, South Carolina. (Its board includes Geoffrey Canada’s brother Daniel.) Prince’s new donation is in addition to the $1 million that he gave to the Harlem Children’s Zone in February.
It is worth noting that Prince’s total contributions to HCZ-like endeavors now stand at $1.25 million, compared to the $10 million that the federal government has spent on Promise Neighborhoods so far.
If you’re moved to compare the two investments, there are two important metrics to keep in mind. The first is raw dollars, and by that measure, the federal government is clearly ahead, having thus far spent eight times as much as Prince. But if you compare promises to follow-through, the story looks different: President Obama promised in 2007 to spend “a few billion dollars a year” on HCZ replications. Which means Obama’s administration is currently spending about 0.2 percent of what he said was the minimum necessary to make the program work. (“I’ll be honest; it can’t be done on the cheap,” he said in the 2007 speech. “But we will find the money to do this, because we can’t afford not to.”)
Prince didn’t promise anything. Which makes his donations look all the more generous, by contrast.
Despite the grim prospects for Promise Neighborhood funding in 2011, President Obama’s 2012 budget, which he proposed last week, requests $150 million for 2012, considerably less than the original 2011 request, but considerably more than Congress has actually allocated for 2011. As an blog post from the Chronicle of Philanthropy explains:
Promise Neighborhoods awarded $10 million in planning grants to 21 projects around the country in the 2010 fiscal year. Mr. Obama proposed upping the budget to $210-million in fiscal year 2011, with most of the money paying for grants to help nonprofit groups put their projects into effect. However, Congress has not yet adopted a 2011 budget, so spending has been frozen at 2010 levels. Congress did not fully back his 2011 request: a House subcommittee proposed spending only $60-million and a Senate committee only $20-million.
The request leaves many questions unanswered, including these, from the New America Foundation’s Ed Money Watch blog:
The Department of Education awarded $10 million in planning grants late last year. What is the status of those planning grants? Will the recipients of the planning grants receive this new money as well or will there be a new grant competition? If it will be the same grant recipients, will those grant recipients be ready to start implementing their plans in fiscal year 2012?
In an interview with Ezra Klein on the Washington Post’s website, the economist James Heckman (who I wrote about in my book and in the New York Times Magazine) has some kind things to say about my recent op-ed, but is less optimistic than I am about Promise Neighborhoods:
Heckman: Look, President Eisenhower built the highway system. President Obama could build the child production system if he wanted to. It would have a much higher payoff than a lot of the programs that are currently there. If you do a cost/benefit analysis of the rate of return for job training, if you talk about early convict rehabilitation programs or literacy training for adults, the rates of return on those programs are generally quite low, very low. It’s just a question of using the same dollars wisely.
Last week there was a great op-ed piece in the New York Times by Paul Tough. He pointed out that we’re spending billions, $8.2 billion a year on Head Start, and Head Start is not a very effective program.
If you had an enriched version of Head Start and invested the same amount of money, you’d get much higher payout in the long run. Each of these programs has a political barnacle connected with it. People are promoting it because they see some advantage, but at the same time there’s really no value in those programs. The point is it’s not a question of raising new money, it’s a question of using existing money wisely.
Klein: If somehow the economy gets to a place where [the Obama administration] can move on to other issues, what would a good first step, federally, be, in moving toward high-quality early education?
Heckman: What you do is move beyond the Harlem Children’s Zone focus that seems to have gripped the administration. That’s fine, but it hasn’t really been evaluated in any serious way yet and it’s not clear that’s the answer.
The key idea is to encourage more experimentation across a broader range of projects, targeting a larger range of people and providing a refocus of what these programs are all about, which is teaching aspects of self-confidence and teaching these soft skills which are typically ignored in a lot of social and political life.
In today’s New York Times, an op-ed I wrote about the debate over funding for President Obama’s Promise Neighborhoods initiative:
So, at this moment of uncertainty and experimentation, should the federal government wait, as critics of Promise Neighborhoods suggest, until ironclad evidence for one big solution exists?
Or should it create a competitive research-and-development marketplace to make bets on innovations, the way the government did during the space race and in the early days of the Internet, and allow the most successful strategies to rise to the top?
News on Promise Neighborhood projects continues to come in from around the country.
From Zanesville, Ohio, a report on a coalition led by the local United Way.
From Richmond, California, a radio report on an ambitious project to improve outcomes in the city’s Iron Triangle district. Ken Lau, who is leading the group applying for a Promise Neighborhood grant, is quoted:
LAU: Whether we become a Promise Neighborhood or not, we are inspired enough at this point and see what’s working that we will continue to move. It’s like, if you all are here just because you want the Promise Neighborhood money and that’s going to be your make or break, you probably really shouldn’t be here because you need to be in here for the long haul. And you need to have something put together that will in fact improve that community.
From Chicago, a great story in Catalyst Chicago profiling five separate groups that have filed applications from that city.
Paul Tough spent five years reporting on the Harlem Children’s Zone (see “The Canada Model“) and says there’s “an R&D feel” to the federal offer. “The Harlem Children’s Zone is one particular model,” he said, “but this isn’t about cloning it in other cities. It’s about adapting it for different places.” There will be certain shared components of any successful application, not least that schools will be used as the logistical hub for any proposal. “That’s why it’s being run by the Department of Education and not Health or anyone else,” Tough said. But this endeavor is about taking all the agencies and entities that are already in place – educational, medical, nutritional, charitable, governmental, commercial, and legal – and getting them to work together – better, smarter, and more effectively.
Complicating matters, though, is this news, from the Chronicle of Philanthropy:
Chances appear dim that President Obama will get anywhere near the full amount of money he requested in next year’s budget for Promise Neighborhoods — the program to help nonprofit groups set up antipoverty projects modeled on the Harlem Children’s Zone.
The administration requested $210-million for the effort in 2011. But the Senate Appropriations Committee last week proposed spending only $20-million, while a House Appropriations subcommittee voted earlier to allocate $60-million.
From Early Ed Watch, the early-education-policy blog run by the New America Foundation, an interesting analysis of the Obama Administration’s Promise Neighborhood initiative:
Though the FY11 budget request specifies that Promise Neighborhoods should serve kids from birth to college, it remains to be seen how much emphasis each Promise Neighborhood will put on early childhood programs, such as those like Baby College and Harlem Gems. If and when Promise Neighborhoods are eventually built, we will be keeping a close eye on whether early childhood maintains its central role in this “birth to 18” pipeline.
From two very different publications, articles about the Harlem Children’s Zone and the prospect of Promise Neighborhoods. In Real Change News, a weekly paper sold by the homeless in Seattle, an interview with Geoffrey Canada, in which he recounts the advice he has given the Obama Administration about Promise Neighborhoods:
We felt like they had to go with the right leadership. They had to get communities that were already down the road on figuring out their area and working out the collaboration issues. There had to be some structure for management in place, and there had to be resources so that it wouldn’t be under resourced, and a real commitment of local leadership — for the vision of the community and not for the individual schools. We thought those were some of the must-haves in the first few of these that have come up. So we’ve had those kinds of conversations with the administration.
And in Forbes, Nicole Perlroth cautions:
Any school rescue program that relies less on donations and more on taxpayer money is at risk of becoming a captive of the education establishment. A two-year project to replicate the Zone in Jacksonville, Fla. saw its largest private donor, the Chartrand Foundation, back out when it appeared that the program would be run by government officials and lack the Zone’s accountability.