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State and Regional Community Schools Coalitions

Momentum Continues for State and Regional Community Schools Coalitions

At the Coalition’s National Forum in April, over 1,700 attendees met by state or region to explore development of community schools coalitions. The purpose of these state or regional coalitions is to unite stakeholders behind strengthening and expanding community schools. 22 states or regions are at some stage of growing networks, and their initiators reflect the wide range of organizations driving community schools development: school districts; United Ways; teacher unions; state afterschool networks; nonprofits; and institutions of higher education.

Coalitions are focusing in four areas: stakeholder engagement (engaging a wide range of groups and individuals to support community schools); professional learning (connecting places and sharing resources and promising practices to build capacity); policy and advocacy (advocating for supportive policy and funding at the federal, state and local level); and communications/messaging (helping everyone to speak the same language about community schools to foster greater understanding and support).

One strategy to continue the momentum is through statewide convenings. Three states have already held convenings since the Forum -- Maryland, Texas, and New Jersey -- and New York’s is scheduled for early August. Some of the strategies these states have employed at their convenings include the following:

  • Overview of the community school initiatives in their state
  • A whole-group exercise to name other stakeholders they wish to engage
  • Sign-up and breakouts for committees/working groups aligned with the four components of the network (stakeholder engagement, professional learning, policy/advocacy, communications/messaging)
  • Overview of policy wins in state legislation and opportunities in the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act
  • Invitation to allies in the legislature to join them for their next convening to help them strategize for the upcoming state legislative session

 
One impetus for the formation of these networks was the increased support at the state level for community schools legislation and funding. We are pleased to share that the 2016 legislative session continued this support with wins for community schools in a few states:

  • In Maryland, two bills passed supporting community schools: HB 1139 requires the State Department of Education to notify school districts that federal Title I funds may be used for expenses associated with community school coordinators and for the coordination of school and community resources, and requires the Department to provide technical assistance to schools in applying for federal funding; and HB 1402 authorizes $7.5 million annually through 2021 for grants to school districts, community schools, and nonprofit organizations in the State to assist in expanding or creating extended day and summer enhancement programs.
  • In California, SB 527 redirects cost savings from Proposition 47, which reduces penalties for low-level crimes, to preventive investments including education. More specifically, 25% of the funds go to the State Department of Education to administer a grant program in which community schools is listed at the top among uses of funds.

  
The Coalition is encouraged by the momentum for these state/regional networks and is committed to supporting their development. We intend to helping these emerging networks engage the wide range of partners that we are proud to have at the national level and that reflect the collaborative spirit of the community school approach. The Coalition has formed a peer learning network for the leaders of these state/regional networks that includes monthly calls and sharing of resources from the Coalition and across states/regions. Please contact Mary Kingston Roche, Director of Public Policy, at rochem@iel.org if you would like to join a state/regional community schools coalition. 

 
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