I'm still thinking about Geoffrey Canada's recent visit to Nashville. One question I wanted to ask, but didn't, was this: "How do we replicate the Harlem Children's Zone without the backing of a Stanley Druckenmiller or the leadership of a Geoffrey Canada?" Canada somewhat skirted the issue during his talk, saying that "we take care of our kids" in Harlem, and that other people needed to take care of their kids.
But even if the HCZ turns out to be a runaway success, that's simply not enough: there are tons of other impoverished neighborhoods full of kids who need medical care, dental care, nutritious meals, after-school tutoring, and so on. If this really works, it's not enough to just put it in Harlem. Obama's mentioned more than once that he'd like to replicate the HCZ in other cities, but how?
The HCZ is able to do what it does, in part, because of the phenomenal level of support from a number of high-rollers. There simply aren't enough Wall Street fat cats to go around if we want 20 or 200 other children's zones. Which really leaves only two possibilities: 1.) future replications will have to rely on the smaller levels of support from a larger number of people, or 2.) future replications will need a large start-up fund donated from someone or some organization. Until recently I'd thought that the federal government might be the only organization with the resources to provide that kind of money. But then I started thinking . . .
The Gates Foundation recently released their annual report (hat tip: Alexander Russo), which contains some information about their educational endeavors. Maybe I'm wrong, but despite spending more than a nominal amount of money it doesn't seem likely that their efforts are going to dramatically re-shape our school system. And that makes me think. Gates has more money than any other NGO in the world. And they do seem genuinely determined to make a difference. So why don't they lead the charge to replicate the HCZ? They're probably the only ones capable of doing it.
The Harlem Children's Zone has a 2010 budget of over $75 million. How many neighborhood groups are capable of raising that type of cash?
Wikipedia lists $2.2 billion that Gates spent on a few major educational projects in recent years and the new letter mentions $335 million that was just earmarked for teacher effectiveness programs. So I don't know how many neighborhoods are capable of raising $5,000 per child to spend on social programs, but I do know that Gates is capable of making up the difference in an awful lot of them.