Armed with a $125,000, two-year grant from The Joyce Foundation, the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group (NCBG) is working with community development organizations in low-income areas to help them integrate school needs into their broader development plans.

In the process, NCBG hopes to build a network to pressure the city and the state to provide enough money for school capital needs and to use that money creatively.

In North Lawndale, for example, a NCBG community organizer is surveying schools and property owners to help identify community development priorities. At the same time, NCBG research and organizational skills are helping community activists identify and prioritize needed school improvements and pressure school officials for funding under the Reform Board’s capital improvement plan.

One goal of this project is to include schools in the Lawndale Christian Development Corporation’s city-funded strategic plan for reinvigorating the blighted neighborhood.

“There are four schools in that area, and we’ve been working with them to find out not only what capital improvements they need, but also what is needed around the school,” says Dion Miller-Perez, a longtime community organizer and NCBG staffer. “The idea is to help them coordinate improvements to the schools with improvements to the city’s infrastructure so they don’t have a beautiful school but potholes and garbage in the street. We want to make sure there is integrated development of the physical infrastructure in the neighborhood.”

With NCBG help, activists in North Lawndale prevailed upon the Reform Board to allocate about $2 million in capital funds to each of the four schools.

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