"We can't help but be concerned with the state of the economy," Canada said. "It's a real time bomb ticking, especially when you look at the states. What I worry about is, as we're making limited choices: Are we making the kind of decisions that will benefit the group of Americans that has been poor for the last 20 or 30 years?"
Promise Neighborhoods, one of the Obama administration's programs aimed at addressing childhood poverty, has not received full funding from Congress. The program, which is modeled on the Harlem Children's Zone, would replicate the intense geographic services provided in the zone (prenatal care, dental care, all-day kindergarten, quality schools, after-school arts, music and other programs). The cost is about $5,000 per child, and Canada raises much of his $70 million budget from private sources.
Twenty communities, including the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana and neighborhoods in Houston and Los Angeles, are preparing proposals to create their own zones with $10 million in planning money approved last year by Congress. But full implementation will cost the government $200 million and require similar levels of matching money from philanthropy and business. If that money is not appropriated this year, the program could lapse.
"We are in a moment of advocacy because we want to make sure that this program gets funded," said Angela Glover Blackwell, who attended the Haley farm retreat and is president of PolicyLink, a nonprofit organization that has helped communities apply for the Promise Neighborhoods program. "By the end of this year, we expect [some of] these groups to move into implementation. And we want to make sure that the funding is there."
Such funding could be unlikely at a time when Republicans in the House have promised to cut spending. Similarly, bipartisan commissions are working on plans to trim the deficit.
James H. Shelton III, head of the Department of Education's Office of Innovation and Improvement, said that this year the administration probably will have only an additional $10 million for the Promise Neighborhood program and will request more money for the program again in 2012.
"At a minimum, we could have a small-scale implementation, not nearly what we had anticipated," Shelton said. "Communities are moving ahead without benefit of federal resources. They are finding folks who share their vision and getting them to donate."
Edelman said she is similarly undeterred. "We can't let the political weather determine the fate of our children," she said. "Unlike 20 years ago, we know what works. Our task is to scale up."