Keep the Promise of Promise Neighborhoods

07/22/2010 03:52 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We've all seen the American Express commercials -- Geoffrey Canada telling of his long and noble fight to improve the lives of thousands of children as head of the Harlem Children's Zone.

But Geoff needs our help in the Senate now to realize his vision of bringing all children a core pipeline of services, from birth to college.

Geoff's work has been extraordinary. He has boosted the opportunities and expanded the possibilities of countless children. When President Obama heard about this success, he promised to expand HCZ's strategy to needy communities across America -- help the "block by block" strategy expand community by community.

And the President kept his word, creating the Promise Neighborhoods program to help other communities build their own comprehensive anti-poverty programs based on the lessons learned in Harlem.

Last year, Congress approved $10 million in planning grants to help communities sketch out their own Promise Neighborhoods.

Nationwide, the response was overwhelming. Nearly 1,000 groups organized to apply for the grants, with more than 330 organizations (representing every state) formally applying just last month -- all for twenty grants of up to $500,000.

The next crucial step was the President's request for $210 million in FY 2011 to help actually make these plans into reality. It is a vital investment that would plant the seeds for growth and opportunity in countless neighborhoods.

But those seeds may never get a chance to grow.

A House subcommittee overseeing the Promise Neighborhoods program drastically pared back the President's request, slating the effort for just $60 million -- not nearly enough to help communities implement this proven, pragmatic solution to child poverty.

And even that amount isn't safe.

As soon as this Tuesday, the Senate subcommittee overseeing the program will meet to decide whether to fund the program at its full amount. We must invest what's needed in order for this program to truly thrive -- and for potentially millions of children to benefit from the lessons of the Harlem Children's Zone.

These key senators need to hear from you. They must hear that our economic future - and the talents of millions of children - is at stake.

(For more information on Promise Neighborhoods, please visit