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Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Among
Obama Announces Promise
Zones in Five Poor Areas

 

By MICHAEL B. SHEAR
The New York Times

 

WASHINGTON—A year after promising to direct federal attention and support to needy areas across the country, including an area of Oklahoma, President Barack Obama said Thursday that the government would begin helping five economically hard-hit communities fight poverty and assist children.
In a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, President Obama said the five areas would become “Promise Zones,” where federal agencies will cut through red tape in an effort to give struggling residents a chance at better lives.
“We will help them succeed,” President Obama said as he stood with children who have benefited from a similar community in Harlem.
“Not with a handout, but as partners with them, every step of the way. And we’re going to make sure it works.”
The president first mentioned the idea of Promise Zones in his State of the Union Address last February.
In that speech, he vowed that in 2013, his administration would “begin to partner with 20 of the hardest-hit towns in America to get these communities back on their feet.”
On Thursday, he announced the first five: San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Southeastern Kentucky and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.
“Your country will help you remake your community on behalf of your children,” President Obama said, promising that the goal is that a child’s success be determined “not by the ZIP code she lives in but by the strength of her work ethic and the scope of her dreams.”
White House officials said the Promise Zones initiative would not provide new money, rather it would be aimed at providing the local governments and agencies “aid in cutting through red tape to get access to existing resources.”
Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said schools “can’t do this by themselves.”
He added, “Bringing in nonprofits, companies and all of us working together is the only way to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.”
In a phone call with reporters, Mr. Duncan said the Promise Zones would receive extra points when applying for existing competitive grants awarded by the Department of Education.
He said that some communities, for example, might use grant money for expanding preschool for disadvantaged 3- and 4-year-olds.
San Antonio has promised more job training through a partnership with St. Philip’s College. Los Angeles has said it will focus on access to technical education.
In Kentucky, leaders say they will work with Berea College to run “career readiness programs.” And in the Choctaw Nation, officials vowed to work on bolstering early literacy programs.
Officials said the administration hoped to expand to 20 Promise Zones by the time President Obama leaves office.

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