Geoffrey Canada is the champion of the now legendary Harlem Children’s Zone: 97 square blocks, 11,300 residents, $70 million annual budget, 1,500 staff, and “womb to tomb” interventions including the Promise Academy which, according to The Washington Post (8/2/09), is “one of the well-funded, successful charter schools that are the centerpiece of Canada’s efforts.”
The Obama administration has taken notice (and Michelle too, apparently). President Obama calls HCZ “an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck effort that’s turning around the lives of New York City’s children, block by block.” (See video below.)
A federal program to help replicate this model all over the country, called “Promise Neighborhoods,” will be launched in 2010 with $10 million in planning funds. Obama explains that the idea is “to make grants available for communities in other cities to jumpstart their own neighborhood-level interventions that change the odds for our kids.” (See video below.)
Geoff Canada is coming to Springfield on November 4th, thanks to The Springfield Public Forum, and discussions have already begun about how this city can become one of the first “Promise Neighborhoods.”
More than usual, funding seems to be a powerful determinant of success in the case of HCZ. But Springfield has no Wall Street equivalent (hedge funds in particular have been very generous to HCZ), and $10 million in federal funding divided among twenty promise neighborhoods will not go far.
Charter schools are another identity element of HCZ. While charter schools are somewhat controversial, there is a lot of private sector support (e.g., Wal-Mart), and Governor Patrick recently took a bold step to accelerate charter school expansion in Massachusetts.
Size may be an issue, too. While Springfield is just a little larger than Harlem, HCZ’s catchment area represents only a small portion of Harlem (11,300 residents). HCZ is fundamentally based on a geographically and demographically well-defined area. So while extrapolating HCZ to the entire city of Springfield (about 150,000 residents) with a fraction of the budget may be tricky, notice that: 1) the North End of Springfield has almost exactly the same population as HCZ; 2) The North End Campus Coalition has been developing a similar wrap-around intervention model since 1998; and 3) the North End is struggling with many of the same intergenerational poverty and educational attainment trends that HCZ is struggling with.