Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Poster Paper: Early Outcomes Assessment and Development of Model for Continuing Evaluation of the Promise Zones

Saturday, November 14, 2015
Riverfront South/Central (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ljubinka Andonoska, University of Texas, El Paso
Promise Zones were announced in President Obama’s State of the Union Address (February 2012). In January 2014, selected from a pool of 123 submitted applications, five communities were designated and promised a bright future despite their decade long struggles. These newly designated communities, urban, rural, and tribal, came as a natural transformation of the former Empowerment Zones enacted some three decades ago by the Clinton Administration.

The Promise Zones, unlike the prior Empowerment Zones, offered no actual funds. The Congress did not appropriate the expected tax credits. The program emphasis is on preferential treatment vis-à-vis other Federal programs. Despite the lack of financial and actual technical assistance to drive the program, the program’s expectations are set high. Promise Zones, according to the HUD’s website[1], offers an unusual list of benefits that among others and in addition to previously stated also include help from AmeriCorps vista members to “work with federal agencies, coordinate key stakeholders, and create programs that address the community's needs”. In addition, they offer direct communication with a federal liaison “to assist local leaders in navigating federal programs” and potential tax benefits for any prospective businesses. Naming the federal government “a partner”, HUD promises help for the designated communities in their efforts to “create jobs, leverage private investment, increase economic activity, expand educational opportunities, and reduce violent crime” (source: HUD website)

We intend to test all these propositions with a particular attention to education. Put differently, in addition to assessment of changes in socio-economic variables, we also intend to test if the federal assistance incorporates steps that assist these communities to the path of better education for all kids living in the most impoverished communities. Therefore, we specifically ask the following research questions:

1) How does federal promise zones designation affect education in the designated community? If so, which level of education is most affected by the designation of the Promise Zones?

2) Can we relate the designation of a Promise Zone with increased social opportunity? If so, which population is mostly affected?

3) Are there differential impacts based on race/ethnicity, gender, and initial educational attainment?

The purpose of this project is threefold. Firstly, we aim to complete an early assessment of the program in order to identify areas that have been well established and areas that need to be improved. Secondly, we aim to investigate the perceptions of local and federal public administrators relative to the relationship between federal development programs and educational attainment. In particular, we will ask the practitioners about their own role in the implementation of the program and whether they perceive any relationship between Federal Promise Zone Designation and the quality of education in their community. Thirdly, we aim to develop a model for continuing evaluation of the educational and broader socio-economic outcomes. Namely, the literature postulates that there is a value added to economic development outcomes when residents in the community have higher education quality (Weiss, 2004).