January 9, 2014

President Obama made good on his promise to tackle inequality today by announcing the first five "Promise Zones" where the federal government will partner with private enterprise and local governments to help break what seems to be an endless cycle of poverty in some areas.

The five areas targeted for aggressive development and opportunity growth are located in San Antonio, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, southeast Kentucky, and the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Promise zones are modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone initiative and several of the children who appeared with the president came from that area. The idea is for government to aggressively partner with private enterprise, local and state governments, and the people who live in these areas to improve their lives.

It's very similar to what the AFT has undertaken in McDowell County, West Virginia in partnership with the state government, private enterprise and local residents to improve their quality of life with the Reconnecting McDowell project.

Overall, I'm optimistic about what this means for some areas that really need help. It does concern me, however, that Obama continues to believe charter schools are the answer to the education issues in those areas. Why is it so impossible to believe a good neighborhood public school is the answer? Why a charter school?

I'm not sure how to go about convincing the president and other well-meaning Democrats that charter schools are not the answer to the education problems in these areas. The answer is to do what the AFT is doing in McDowell County and elsewhere -- use the neighborhood school as the hub for other services to build up the community as a whole in addition to providing a great education for the kids.

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