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Senate Embraces Every Child Achieves Act

Senate Embraces Community Schools in Passage of Every Child Achieves Act

July 24, 2015

Community school supporters have good reason to celebrate important federal policy wins that occurred in July. On July 16, the U.S. Senate passed the Every Child Achieves Act by a vote of 81-17. (Every Child Achieves is intended to replace No Child Left Behind.) We are thrilled to share that two community school amendments offered by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) have passed as part of the Senate’s Every Child Achieves Act bill.  One amendment authorizes a full-service community schools grant program, and the second-which passed unanimously- makes resource coordinators an allowable use of Title IV funds. We commend Senators Brown and Manchin for their leadership in the Senate, and House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) for his long-standing championship across Capitol Hill for community schools. We are thrilled with these victories and heartened by the passage of the Senate bill that moves us a step closer toward reauthorizing the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.
"This victory demonstrates the growing bipartisan support for the community school strategy," states Martin J. Blank, President of the Institute for Educational Leadership and Director of the Coalition. "More and more Senators are hearing from their constituents about the growth and impact of community schools in their states, and the strong return on investment that community schools yield for young people, families and their communities."
Mary Kingston Roche, the Coalition’s Director of Public Policy, adds, "These wins prove the power of our Coalition’s over 200 national, state and local partners who made this victory possible. By coming together around the vision of community schools, partners representing educators, families, youth development, health, and civil rights rallied for these amendments and achieved strong bipartisan support. It is this united front that made these amendments successful and makes the community schools strategy so powerful."
We are also excited that the Senate preserved dedicated funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), which provides funding for afterschool, before-school and summer learning programs and is an important funding stream for the community school strategy.
The vote on the amendment to authorize the full-service community schools program proved especially gratifying. We needed 51 votes and the final three or four we needed were won in the last 24 hours through additional grassroots outreach from the field. It’s an exciting victory and a story of how every person’s outreach matters for advocacy. In addition to this extra outreach, we believe what made these amendments pass is simply the bipartisan appeal of the community school strategy. All Democrats voted for the amendment, as well as eight Republicans. Senators understand that this is a strategy responsive to different contexts, not one-size-fits-all; and enlists public-private partnerships, not just public funds that many are looking to curb in the first place. In addition, the growing demand and spread of community schools shows this as the strategy of choice in many communities, and the results and stories from our national awardees demonstrate what schools can accomplish through strong school-community partnerships.
We appreciate the actions of our national, state and local partners without whom these victories would not be possible. Stacey Stuart, U.S. President of the United Way Worldwide wrote a blog in Huffington Post on ESEA that calls to establish the community schools program. Other national partners have also helped, sharing our action alerts with their members and signing onto our letters to Congress. Since these victories were truly a team effort from all of our Coalition partners, we’d like to say thank you and congratulations.
Despite the strong bipartisan showing in the Senate, a reauthorized ESEA still has a ways to go. The House narrowly passed its ESEA bill by a vote of 218-213 with virtually no Democratic support. The House and Senate bills are so far apart that it will be very challenging and possibly a lengthy process to reconcile these bills into one to send to the President. In addition, the President has threatened to veto the House bill, so members will need to work out key components to settle on something the President can sign. A conference committee will be formed after Congress returns from its August recess, and their deliberations to reach a final bill will likely take several weeks, bringing the timeline into the early fall.
We will be sure to keep you updated on developments. In the meantime, watch our latest Policy Pulse video summarizing these victories and share with your networks; and use our sample tweets to thank your Senators if they voted for our amendment to establish a full-service community schools program. (You can see how they voted here). We look forward to working with Congress and our partners to ensure that a final bill strengthens school, family and community partnerships for young people’s success.
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