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Universal Companies loses out on grant for Promise Neighborhood implementation

By Dale Mezzacappa on Dec 19, 2011 05:44 PM

Universal Companies, which was in the running to receive a chunk of federal money to establish a Promise Neighborhood in South Philadelphia, has lost out on receiving an implementation grant.

Philadelphia was not included in the list of five awardees released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education. The five organizations received between $1.5 million and $6 million each from the U.S. Department of Education.

Promise Neighborhoods are a key Obama administration initiative that would provide cradle-to-college educational and social services to young people in underserved neighborhoods. It is modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone founded by Geoffrey Canada.

Last fall, Universal received a $500,000 planning grant to investigate feasibility of starting a Promise Neighborhood in Point Breeze and Grays Ferry.

Even though winning the implementation grant was a longshot from the start – more than 200 organizations applied – Universal and former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman had touted the idea and used it as one rationale for turning over Audenried High School and Vare Middle School to Universal to be run as charters.

The Promise Neighborhood program is funded at $60 million this year, but some Republicans have tried to kill it entirely.

The School Reform Commission voted to turn over the schools, despite some misgivings about what would happen should Universal not receive the implementation grant. It approved an amendment requiring the company to provide all promised programs and services regardless.

School District spokesman Fernando Gallard noted that provision in a statement from the District expressing its disappointment.

"We are disappointed but nonetheless our expectations are that the turnaround work at Audenried and Vare will continue unimpeded. The resolutions granting the charters to Universal specifically note that the programs and services that they agreed to provide will move forward whether or not they would get the Promise Neighborhood grant dollars. We look forward to sitting down with Universal in the near future to review the next steps now that we know the grant dollars are not going to be part of this program."

The Notebook has asked for a statement from Universal and will update the post as soon as we receive it. At the time, Universal Executive Vice President Shahied Dawan said he had "no concern" about fulfilling its obligations under the charter agreement with or without the federal grant. 

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Comments (7)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2011 7:56 pm


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2011 7:49 pm

Yay, Yay !!

Submitted by Raheem (not verified) on December 19, 2011 8:36 pm

Not a surprise - Philadelphia is corrupt.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 21, 2011 4:09 pm

Also not a surprise because this was an intensely competitive grant. There were 200 applications for 5 grants. A long-shot for any organization. The disturbing part is how that wasn't acknowledged explicitly bad when all of this planning took place. Philadelphia leaders seem to confused "potential" sources of funding with "actual" sources of funding.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 19, 2011 9:18 pm

Does the sdp have to pay for promise schools now?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 20, 2011 6:13 am

We already do, and they take resources from the rest of the schools. It is a bloated and unsustainable program.

But Audenreid and Vare are not Promise Academies. They were turned into charter schools. We pay for those, too. All charters get a per-pupil payment from the district.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on December 20, 2011 8:14 am

You gotta love those charter schools, don't you ?? Another of Bush's political gifts to the rich at the expense of the poor.

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