Prepared Remarks of Secretary Shaun Donovan at the Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative Press Conference

US Department of Education
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Thank you, Melody -- for that introduction and for your remarkable leadership. I want to thank Secretaries Duncan and Sebelius for their leadership -- as well as our friends from the Department of Justice and Treasury who are playing a big role in this effort.

As President Obama has said, "If poverty is a disease that infects an entire community in the form of unemployment and violence, failing schools and broken homes, then we can't just treat those symptoms in isolation. We have to heal that entire community."

I'm joined by my colleagues here today because that commitment to healing the entire community is one we all share.

Nearly 8 million people live in what we call "neighborhoods of concentrated poverty" -- surrounded by disinvestment, failing schools, troubled housing, and little opportunity.

In fact, research shows that one of the most important factors in determining whether or not children will do better financially than their parents is not their family's economic status, but whether or not they grow up in one of these high-poverty neighborhoods.

As a result, we can predict health, economic, and educational outcomes of children based on where they grow up.

Imagine that: children's futures determined not by their talents or actions but on the zip code in which they are raised.

That's why I'm so thankful Melody, the Domestic Policy Council, the White House Office of Urban Affairs, and agencies across the Administration have been pursuing an interagency Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative -- to support local community, government, business, and institutional leaders as they work to create neighborhoods of opportunity.

Secretary Duncan has described the Promise Neighborhoods approach -- modeled on the remarkable Harlem Children's Zone project.

Where Promise Neighborhoods works to ensure there are good schools and quality learning opportunities at the center of each neighborhood, HUD's own Choice Neighborhoods initiative would transform troubled housing in these neighborhoods and give communities the tools they need to connect development resources to education and economic opportunity.

Example after example in communities across the nation has shown us that the correlation between successful housing and good schools is not just theory -- it's practice.

But to take that practice to scale in neighborhoods across the country, these two strategies can't just exist side-by-side -- they need to work together.

That's why HUD has set aside up to four Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants for Promise Neighborhoods winners -- organizations that have demonstrated not only need in their communities, but also an ability to pursue interconnected solutions, and leverage an array of untapped assets in those communities.

Many of our most troubled neighborhoods have extremely valuable assets at their disposal -- from transit lines that connect housing to jobs, to nearby anchor institutions like hospitals and universities, to local partners in the private and non-profit sectors who want to help and can. Choice Neighborhoods will help them do just that.

And with the deadline to apply for Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grants not until October 26th, I want to encourage every one of the awardees Secretary Duncan announced today to apply -- and take advantage of this opportunity to pursue comprehensive neighborhood revitalization in their communities.

Together, Choice Neighborhoods and Promise Neighborhoods form just one example of how President Obama's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative is ushering in a new era of partnership at the federal and local levels that can unlock the potential of our communities and create a true geography of opportunity for our children -- one that ensures their futures--and their choices--are no longer limited by something as arbitrary as the zip code they grow up in.

Ensuring they never are again is the goal of this initiative. And it's why I'm thrilled to be a part of it today. Thank you.


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