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'Promise Zone' Projects Could Get a Leg Up in Ed. Dept. Grant Competitions

The U.S. Department of Education may give applicants an advantage in competitive grant programs if their proposals mesh with the goals of the Obama administration's interdepartmental "Promise Zone" initiative, which is aimed at helping revitalize high-poverty communities, according to a notice slated for publication in tomorrow's Federal Register.

Promise Zones have been a big buzzword for the administration, even though there's virtually no money attached to the initiative. The project is led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, with coordination from the Education Department, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

It's unclear exactly which competitive programs the department would decide to apply the extra credit to. But presumably, Promise Neighborhoods, which offers grants to help schools partner with wraparound service providers (such as health or arts programs) would be a top candidate.

The Education Department asked for comments on this new rule way back in October. A few folks argued that giving Promise Zone projects a head start in federal grant competitions could freeze out other worthy potential grantees. But the administration didn't budge on that idea, and instead made it clear in the register notice that the change doesn't apply to every competitive grant program.

"The Secretary recognizes that this priority will not be appropriate for all discretionary grant programs," the notice says. "Each discretionary grant program is in the best position to work with its constituent communities and to determine the priorities critical to achieving their program outcomes." 

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