In the latest issue of The New York Times Magazine, longtime education writer Paul Tough has an insightful treatise on President Obama’s policies regarding poverty -- the issue that, more than any other, holds American cities down, and one that we seem incapable of addressing in any rational, lasting way.
Tough is the author of Whatever It Takes, a book about the Harlem Children’s Zone, a trailblazing program that offers poor kids a web of services designed to carry them out of the ’hood and into the middle class. On the campaign trail in 2007, Obama promised to pour a few billion dollars a year into creating Children’s Zones in cities across the country. Here he is in a speech at the community center in the Anacostia neighborhood of Washington, D.C.:
We know this works. And if we know it works, there's no reason this program should stop at the end of those blocks in Harlem. It's time to change the odds for neighborhoods all across America.
The proposal, which Obama later dubbed Promise Neighborhoods, sent waves of excitement through American cities. In 2009, dozens of communities hastily compiled proposals to be one of the first 20 test cases.