The Promise Zones were inspired by the success of the Kalamazoo Promise, the nation’s first universal scholarship program for an entire community. By enacting Promise Zone legislation in 2009, Michigan became the first and, to date, only state in the nation to promote the creation of “place-based” scholarship initiatives to increase educational attainment and spur economic growth in a community. Kalamazoo benefited from a few incredibly generous donors. Michigan’s Promise Zone communities are working to deliver similar Promise scholarships through private donations, small and large, and by “capturing” growth in state property tax revenue.
Twelve Promise Zones have already begun awarding scholarships. Educators, businesses, families and civic leaders are also striving to embed a pervasive culture of learning in these communities – an essential ingredient in any recipe for education success. Promise scholarship initiatives speak directly to some of the most critical problems we face in our society. They will help disadvantaged students close the achievement gap, assist cities in retaining and attracting middle-class families, and draw knowledge-based businesses to distressed communities.