Promise coalition loses out on grant
Promise coalition loses out on grant
LR neighborhood denied $12 million
By Evie Blad
LITTLE ROCK — The U.S. Department of Education on Monday rejected a proposal that would have provided a four-year, $12 million federal grant for the Central Little Rock Promise Neighborhood.
The program, designed with the aid of a $430,000 federal planning grant awarded in 2010, is a “cradle-to-career” effort to assist children in a low-income portion of Little Rock with health, educational and social needs.
The project’s leader said Monday that the group will not give up.
The coalition of organizations, led by the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, will not carry out some parts of its plan until it can raise private money or secure a grant from a second round of federal funds to help cover its expenses, said state Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, the project’s director.
“I feel confident that somebody will step up and help because somebody needs to start this process,” she said. “The future belongs to the kids, but the responsibility is ours.”
The Education Department announced five implementation grants Monday for similar programs across the country. The grants, each matched with private contributions by grantees, funded each program at up to $6 million a year for the next five years.
The department also awarded 15 additional planning grants of up to $500,000 each.
More than 200 organizations applied for planning or implementation grants, and the steep competition means that the 21 groups that previously secured planning grants may not receive additional federal funds to follow through with their plans, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told reporters in a conference call.
“As we all know, this work is especially important for children living in struggling communities and surrounded by poverty,” he said, highlighting plans for schools to partner with health clinics, libraries and universities to help their students.
“You cannot divorce where children live from where they learn.”
Jim Shelton, assistant deputy secretary for innovation and improvement with the Education Department, said the federal agency hopes successful “promise neighborhoods” will provide solutions that can be implemented in other communities around the country.
“They’re seeking solutions,” he said of poor communities. “They’re trying to see what works. These investments create the opportunity for them to see just that.”
The fiscal 2012 budget includes an additional $60 million for additional Promise Neighborhood grants, which will be distributed next year, Shelton said.
The Central Little Rock Promise Neighborhood is an area bound by Interstate 630 on the north, Boyle Park on the west, Fourche Creek Bottoms on the south and Martin Luther King Drive on the east.
Participating organizations are working with the Little Rock School District to target an estimated 10,000 children living in seven census tracts in the area.
Those organizations include the city of Little Rock, Little Rock School District, the Central Arkansas Library System, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, New Futures for Youth and Little Rock Preparatory Academy, a charter school in the area. Elliott said it is important to involve all public school students in the area, regardless of whether their school is a charter school or a traditional school.
The federal grant would have had immediate impact, she said, allowing the group to hire more staff, create a computer system to track student performance and launch an intergenerational afterschool and summer learning program.
The group has already implemented parts of its plan, even without the additional funding, Elliott said.
AmeriCorps team members work in the area’s schools and Arkansas Children’s Hospital will soon begin offering in-home parenting classes to promote good health, nutrition and child-rearing habits, such as reading to children, she said.
“With or without the money, we’ve been planning for this,” Elliott said. “We weren’t kidding.”