The Business Case for Promise Neighborhoods

The Business Case for Promise Neighborhoods

by Director, Mission Promise Neighborhood Richard Raya

It’s no secret that the San Francisco Bay Area’s economic engine is revving more than ever. According to a San Jose Mercury News article, If the nine-county region were a nation — no, it’s actually not, although many here think so! — the Bay Area’s $748 billion Gross Domestic Product would make it the nineteenth strongest economy in the world. (Take that Switzerland, at #20).

The Bay Area has more than its fair share of millionaires, with more being minted daily via the numerous tech I.P.O.s occurring this year.

But, unfortunately, many are being left behind in this modern-day Gold Rush.

These stats below, showcasing the wealth gap creating unprecedented inequity in the region, are from the Bay Area Equity Atlas. This data-driven atlas is produced by a partnership of the San Francisco Foundation, PolicyLink, and the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE).

  • Between 2000 to 2015, full-time workers with the lowest earnings (at the 10th percentile) saw their incomes decline by 13 percent, while the incomes of workers in the middle were completely flat, and top earners (at the 90th percentile) saw their paychecks grow by 13 percent.
  • Meanwhile, between 2011 and 2015, median market rents increased by 36 percent. A family of two full-time workers each making $15/hour can afford market rent only in 5 percent of Bay Area neighborhoods.
  • There are wide economic inequities by race and gender in the region: Among full-time workers of all races, women earn 81 percent of what their male counterparts earn and the largest gender gaps are within the White and Asian or Pacific Islander communities. And while average earnings for full-time workers was about $63,000 in 2015, Native Americans and Latino workers earn about 60 percent of the average, and Black workers earn about 80 percent of the average, while White workers earn about 130 percent of the average.
  • If there had been racial equity in income in 2015, the Bay Area economy could have been $356 billion larger.

Meeting the scale of this egregious inequity takes an initiative of similar magnitude. That’s Promise Neighborhoods, which leverage the success of an ambitious social-policy experiment, the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ). Started as a one-block pilot in New York City back in the 1990s, that national model for disrupting the cycle of generational poverty has grown to a 97-block area of central Harlem. President Obama described HCZ as “an all-encompassing, all-hands-on-deck, anti-poverty effort that is literally saving a generation of children.” The New York Times echoed this sentiment by claiming that HCZ is “one of the most ambitious social-policy experiments of our time.”

After a decade of solid results in low-income communities of color  — from rural Mississippi to urban Los Angeles — it is clear that the bold Promise Neighborhood education model concurrently alleviates poverty and creates educational equity by the implementation of a cradle-to-college-to-career continuum. It’s a trajectory of success.

In San Francisco’s Mission District, the Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is now in its seventh year generating such success via a two-generation, collaborative approach. MPN leverages 20+ community partners — connected via a robust, customized Salesforce referral tool — to provide wraparound services so that our families are strengthened and our students have the tools to head off to college. To date, there have been 2,744 families connected to 5,590 different program referrals, pushed forward by Family Success Coaches dedicated to each school to serve as connectors to the resources available to meet MPN families’ challenges head-on. These resources run the gamut from securing affordable housing and strengthening finances to learning immigration rights and finding a medical home.

Knowing that student success begins before kindergarten, early care and education service providers are also brought into the mix. That has translated to 80 percent of all Latino 4-year-olds in the Mission now being enrolled in preschool, so that they become kinder-ready.

At the other end of the spectrum, our young adults are now graduating from high school and have the tools to head off to college, many the first in their family to do so, often abetted by the assistance of a mentor to whom the student can relate. The exciting news is that Latino graduation rates at the Mission’s John O’Connell High School have increased from 63 percent to 88 percent, while African American graduation rates went from 46 percent to 93 percent.

Now a proven model — and a solid business case — scaling Promise Neighborhoods across the land could be transformative.

In California, there is work to make that happen. SB 686, the California Promise Neighborhoods Act of 2019 penned by State Senator Ben Allen, is currently working its way through the legislative halls of the Capitol in Sacramento. If passed, the measure would mean that the vital work of all six current Promise Neighborhoods in the state can continue uninterrupted, with 20 more Promise Neighborhoods created in areas experiencing a cycle of poverty and underresourced schools.

It’s about creating equity of opportunity for all California kids.

 

 

 

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