When Angel Taveras, the mayor of Providence, R.I., got wind of a lucrative contest among mayors over ideas for improving their cities, his mind turned immediately to children, the New York Times reports. A product of Head Start and later Harvard University, Mr. Taveras had been longing to do something for children whose parents could not afford preschool. His idea, using some spiffy technology to track the number of words that children 5 and under are exposed to each day, won his city first place and $5 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the foundation of Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York, which oversaw the contest. Four other cities — Houston, Chicago, Santa Monica, Calif., and Philadelphia — were whittled down from more than 300 that competed for the innovation grants at a time when most American cities are struggling to pay for existing programs to improve life there, let alone establish new ones. Those cities will get $1 million to get their new projects going. “As cities are seeing cutbacks,” Mr. Taveras said, “it’s critically important to create innovation.”

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