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“Promise Neighborhoods” Finally Launch in LA

Hillel Aron | July 11, 2013

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Screen shot 2013-05-17 at 12.22.57 PMA new initiative called Los Angeles Promise Neighborhoods, six years in the making, finally launched this month.

Headed by the Youth Policy Institute (or YPI), it aims to serve 18,000 kids in two neighborhoods — Hollywood and Pacoima — and hopes to expand even further in the future.

The idea behind LA’s Promise Neighborhoods is to provide a comprehensive approach to anti-poverty work, fusing what has previously been a hodge-podge of community and educational services into one comprehensive program that families can enroll in.

“We spend so long doing one-off, silo stuff,” YPI’s Executive Director Dixon Slingerland told LA School Report, “After-school stuff here, job training here, school reform here. No one does it all in a coordinated way. Promise Neighborhoods allow us to pull it all together to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.”

Promise Neighborhoods takes as its inspiration the Harlem Children’s Zone (featured on This American Life in 2008).

In President Barack Obama’s first term, he secured $75 million in grant money toward replicating the program, more or less, in different cities across the country.

Los Angeles received $30 million, the largest of any city, and YPI will raise at least as much privately.

“We’ve got more than 40 groups that we’re giving sub-grants to, to provide wrap-around services,” said Slingerland. “It’s a new movement about how we look at the work in education.”

Slingerland sees the Promise Neighborhoods as a chance to start a new kind of education reform movement, perhaps one that’s less controversial.

Both Superintendent John Deasy and the new Mayor, Eric Garcetti, are strong supporters of Promise Neighborhoods, providing quotes in the YPI press release.

“For so many years, we’ve had competitive reform,” said Slingerland. “I think we’re entering a new era — with a new Mayor, a new School Board majority — of more collaborative school reform.”

YPI currently runs two charter schools, a pilot school and a “network partner” school. (You can see a breakdown of different school models here). It also runs after-school and job training programs.

Its Chief Operating Officer, Iris Zuniga, was initially intending to run for the School Board’s District 6 seat but dropped out before the election after Mayor Villaraigosa’s Coalition for School Reform got behind a different candidate, Antonio Sanchez.

Previous posts: LA Wins $30M Federal GrantNew Coalition Launches with High Hopes, Few SpecificsLocal Groups Join Up for School Improvements

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