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Promise Neighborhoods Program Draws Flood of Applications

The Promise Neighborhood program is still the shiny, new iPad 2 of federal competitive grants.

The two-year-old program, which is meant to help schools and non-profits work together to pair education with wraparound services (such as pre-kindergarten) got 234 applications for the latest $30 million in grants, to be split between planning and implementation awards.

Last year, there were 339 applicants for one-year planning grants only, when the program was funded at $10 million.

This time around, there were a total of 199 applications for planning grants, including 146 from non-profits, 48 from institutions of higher education, and five from American Indian tribes.

And there were a total of 35 applications for implementation grants, including 32 from non-profits, and three from institutions of higher education.

The program includes four "competitive preferences," which are areas that applicants can choose to address to give their proposals a leg-up in the competition. Applicants can choose up to two preferences. Early-learning was far and away the top choice, with 140 proposals. The second-runner-up was arts and humanities, an area that 71 applicants want to bolster. Other designated areas of focus include Quality Affordable Housing, and Internet Connectivity.

The Promise Neighborhood program has gotten a lot of love recently, but not as much money as the administration had hoped. And the program's future is uncertain. The Senate Appropriations Committee sought to double funding for the program in its fiscal year 2012 budget bill, to $60 million. But the House Appropriations Committee sought to scrap Promise Neighborhoods in its bill. Both bills are still pending.

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