Saturday, January 18, 2014


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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge Grantees Announced

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius announced Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Vermont as new state grantees to receive $280 million in grant awards from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge (RTT-ELC) fund. The award will help to improve access to high-quality early learning and development programs throughout their states. These six states join the 14 existing state grantees who secured funding in the first two rounds, which began in 2011.

RTT-ELC has awarded over $1 billion under this administration towards states to align, coordinate, and improve the quality of existing early learning and development programs through multiple funding streams that support children from birth to age five.

Funds are used to:

1. Establish cultural, linguistic, and developmentally appropriate early learning and development standards across all the essential domains of school readiness for children from birth to kindergarten entry;

2. Ensure that quality program standards are applied to all early learning programs in the state;

3. Build and improve on state Tiered Quality Rating and Improvement Systems designed to improve and inform parents about the quality of early learning programs;

4. Promote health and family engagement strategies.

For complete details of this announcement, please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website here.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

White House Announces First Five Promise Zones

Today, the White House announced the first five Promise Zones. The first five cities to receive the Promise Zone designation include:
  • San Antonio
  • Philadelphia
  • Los Angeles
  • Southeastern Kentucky
  • Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma 
Aimed at helping communities create jobs, increase access to quality, affordable housing, reduce crime and expand educational opportunities, the Promise Zones initiative will provide local leaders with access to the federal agencies, tools and resources needed to tackle these complex issues. Though the Promise Zones initiative does not provide cities with a financial award, designated Zones will work in close partnership with federal representatives and will have preferential access to existing grant programs.

The cities announced today – which represent urban, rural and tribal communities – have demonstrated their commitment to leveraging existing resources and working in partnership across sectors to invest to revitalize neighborhoods through existing grant programs, such as the Promise Neighborhoods and Choice Neighborhoods programs. Today’s announcement recognizes the outstanding efforts of these cities, as well as the federal government’s commitment to working in partnership with local leaders to create opportunities in our nation’s most distressed communities.

The Obama Administration plans to announce 15 more Promise Zones throughout the country in the next three years.

Want to learn more about Promise Zones? Check out the Center for the Study of Social Policy’s Promise Zones Brief. Stay tuned to our blog for updates about the work of the five Promise Zones announced today, as well as future application processes.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Center for the Study of Social Policy: Lessons from the War on Poverty

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, ushering in new initiatives and investments to help meet the needs of the poor. There has been much debate on the success or failure of these efforts. What isundeniable is that Johnson’s set of policy initiatives involved bold thinking and creative strategies.

Innovative changes for the time included an overhaul to our food and nutrition programs, improving healthcare access and utilization and a previously unmatched effort to help students pay for higher education.

These initiatives are still critical parts of this nation’s safety net for poor families. Unfortunately, today, many of these investments face significant cuts and political challenges. In a time of widening equity gaps we need to bolster our investments in the successful programs we have already put in place instead of constantly undermining them. In fact, this is the time for more. For a bigger vision, matched with real investments.

We must use today’s knowledge to make our own innovative strides to meaningfully address poverty. It is unacceptable that 22 percent of all children – and an even higher rate of children of color - live in poverty. We allneed to think about ways to contribute to the new ideas necessary for real change.

At the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP), we believe there are many critical opportunities for developing and progressing new ideas and strategies. Among them, promoting comprehensive supports for children, for families and for communities, advancing equity in every aspect of policymaking and developing solutions that meet the needs of those families facing multiple barriers to success.

Removing Roadblocks
The burden of coordination should not be placed on poor families – but should be advanced through better organized government. Solutions should be streamlined at the federal, state and local level, allowing poor families to receive services and supports in ways that do not include competing or contradictory requirements, unreasonable timelines or overly prescriptive programing. Some of these principles are beginning to take shape through neighborhood-focused investments. Leveraging existing assets in communities and targeting investments to a specific place is a more effective approach to supporting high-poverty communities. When investments take into account the valuable resources – including human and social capital – that already exist, are coordinated with a range of community stakeholders and remove obstacles for people, they become more sustainable and likely more successful.

Advancing Equity
Racial and ethnic minorities face significant disparities in education, health, employment and social and economic mobility. If this continues, we will both undermine the values we hold as a country and lose the chance to capitalize on the significant advantages of our increasingly diverse population. Pursuing anti-poverty policy strategies that directly take into account the existence of disparate opportunities and outcomes for people of color is the best way to meet our broader societal goals – and the only way to significantly reduce poverty. This work should be done, not only in programs and policies where there is an explicit impact on people of color, but in every aspect of policy work.

Strengthening Families
It is critical to focus on families facing the most significant obstacles. For example, while the majority of children, youth and families living in poverty never come to the attention of the child welfare system, those who are reported for alleged child neglect - and those families who remain involved for extended periods - are often the ones whose financial struggles are exacerbated by social isolation, housing instability, mental health issues and other barriers. Coordinated policy innovations that help families in child welfare meet concrete needs can be a means of prevention – as well as a means for ensuring families are both socially and financially stable. This is a critical way to successfully address the causes and impact of poverty.

Poverty is a complicated issue. One that still affects far too many children, families and communities. There is no simple solution, but as we reflect on where we are 50 years later, one thing is clear. We cannot be afraid to act due to complexity. CSSP is committed through all of our work to advocate for and promote innovative policy and program strategies that eliminate inequities and ensure the well-being of children, families and communities.

Want to learn more about how to promote policies and strategies that strengthen families and communities?  Check out

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Join CSSP and the Annie E. Casey Foundation for a Webinar on Redevelopment, Partnerships and Philanthropy in New Orleans

Eight years ago, the Annie E. Casey Foundation joined a collaborative effort to help rebuild and revitalize a low-income New Orleans neighborhood devastated by Hurricane Katrina. Resident leaders and philanthropic partners both played crucial roles in ensuring the redevelopment project in the historic neighborhood of Central City met the needs of the community. 

Join the Center for the Study of Social Policy (CSSP) for a webinar on Monday, January 27 at 2:00 p.m. (ET) to explore the multifaceted partnerships that guided the post-Katrina transformation of Central City's C.J. Peete public housing complex into the mixed-income Harmony Oaks community. The webinar will feature the key players involved - resident, developer and funder - as they talk about their rebuilding experience and lessons that could help inform future redevelopment efforts.

Webinar Participants:
  • Frank Farrow, director, Center for the Study of Social Policy (moderator) 
  • Leila Fiester, writer and author of Investing in New Orleans: Lessons for Philanthropy in Public Housing Redevelopment 
  • Sandra Moore, president, Urban Strategies 
  • Jocquelyn Marshall, former president of the C.J. Peete Resident Council and Harmony Oaks resident
  • Mindy Turbov, director of Choice Neighborhoods, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Click here to register.

Monday, January 6, 2014

CDFI Fund Launches 2014 Webinar Series for Small and Emerging CDFIs

As part of its Capacity Building Initiative, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund at the U.S. Department of the Treasury recently announced its 2014 webinar series designed to strengthen small and emerging CDFIs. The webinars, which kick off on January 8, are free and open to all.

CDFIs provide residents and business owners in underserved communities with access to affordable and responsible financial products and services. The CDFI Fund seeks to promote economic revitalization by providing grants and technical assistance to CDFIs at all stages of development.

The “Strengthening Small and Emerging CDFIs” webinar series, delivered by the Opportunity Finance Network, will provide best practices and tools on a diverse range of topics. Advance registration is required. Upcoming webinars include:

  • The Four Stages of CDFI Growth (Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 1 p.m. EST): This webinar will provide participants with an organizational development framework and help them to identify their organizations’ place within it. It will also identify common organizational issues and offer practical solutions to managing growth.
  • Capitalization: Raising Debt and Equity for CDFIs (Tuesday, January 21, 2014, 1 p.m. EST): This webinar will explore the various sources of capital available to CDFIs and discuss how to develop a plan to access appropriate sources of capital.
  • Leading Organizational Change (Wednesday, February 5, 2014, 1 p.m. EST):  This webinar will walk through the steps for successfully leading organizational change as CDFIs prepare for growth. 

Registration can be completed up until the start time listed for each individual session. Click here to register and stay posted to the "Strengthening Small and Emerging CDFIs" webpage for future offerings. All past webinars will be posted to the “Strengthening Small and Emerging CDFIs” Resource Bank, which includes additional training and reference materials.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

U.S. Department of Education Announces Grantees for Race to the Top—District Competition and Investing in Innovation 2013 Competition

The U.S. Department of Education made recent award announcements about two programs: the Race to the Top-District (RTTT-D) program competition and the Investing in Innovation (i3) program competition. Five applicants were selected as grantees for the $120 Million Race to the Top—District competition, and the highest-rated applications secured match funding and became grantees for the 2013 Investing in Innovation competition.

Race to the Top-District Winners

The Race to the Top-District (RTTT-D) winners represent a range of districts, and 5 winning applicants have been chosen for four-year awards, which will vary from $4 million to $30 million depending on the population of students served through the plan.

The winners are:
  • Clarendon County School District Two (consortium of four rural districts), South Carolina
  • Clarksdale Municipal School District, Mississippi
  • Houston Independent School District, Texas
  • Kentucky Valley Educational Cooperative (consortium of 18 rural districts)
  • Springdale School District, Arkansas
These winners demonstrate innovative work going on in rural school districts across the country to tailor education for all students and provide school leaders and teachers with key tools that support them in meeting students' needs.

The Race to the Top-District program will provide approximately $120 million to support locally developed plans to personalize and improve student learning, increase student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student for success in college and careers.

For more information on the Race to the Top-District (RTTT-D) program, click here.

Investing in Innovation Grantees

The 25 highest rated applications for the fourth round of Investing in Innovation (i3) program competition have secured private-sector matching funds and will be awarded approximately $134 million by the end of December to expand innovative practices designed to improve student achievement.

The grantees address a variety of issues, including four projects that focus on family and parent engagement; four grantees serving rural students and communities; and five projects focusing on Science, Technology, and Engineering, and Math (STEM) course content and instructional practices to increase student engagement and academic achievement.

For more information on Investing in Innovative Funds (i3) program, click here.