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Policymakers Turn to Community Schools

01/23/13

The year 2012 ended with important policy pushes at federal, state and local levels that positioned community schools as a focal point for education reform. With the announcements of Race to the Top District and Promise Neighborhood grant awards, to new statewide legislation being pushed in New York and New Mexico, to San Pablo, Calif. successfully passing full service community school legislation through its city council and local board education, the community school strategy has surfaced in many forms. The Coalition applauds the work of our community school leaders and their partners for leveraging their work to achieve these policy victories.  
Below are highlights of community schools impact on recent legislation:
 
Race to the Top District Competition (RTT-D)
The emphasis on strategic and results-based school-community partnership through the Competitive Preference Priority (CPP) in the Race to the Top – District competition was a significant for the community schools movement.
 
Though all award winners indicated they planned to use external partnerships to bolster their school systems, several RTT-D grantees explicitly used existing and expanding community school partnerships in making their case for the grant. Those that explicitly stated community schools in their winning applications included:
·   Puget Sound Educational Service District (WA), also known as the Road Map District Consortium, leverages the Road Map Project’s existing framework and networks to serve seven school districts. The Road Map Project is a community wide effort to improve schools through the community schools strategy in South King County and South Seattle.
·   New Haven Unified School District (CT) is using community school strategy as a core component of their comprehensive plan to address the challenges of its high-needs students.
·   The Charleston County School District and Idea Public Schools have partnered with Communities In Schools (CIS), a national model for the community school strategy.
 
Promise Neighborhood 2012:
With seven implementation and 10 planning grants, the 2012 Promise Neighborhood grantees share $60 million from the federal government to support safety, health and education services in impoverished neighborhoods. The Coalition believes that schools are crucial vehicles for any place-based reform such as Promise Neighborhoods because they reach most, if not all, children in a neighborhood, and ultimately, improve the chances for the sustainable revitalization of these communities. Promise Neighborhood initiatives have leveraged and/or joined forces with local community school initiatives to strategically position schools as hubs of their communities and the core of the revitalization strategies.
 
Here are 2012 Promise Neighborhood grantees that have done just that:
·         Mission Promise Neighborhood (CA) – Among the Mission Zone’s 9 schools, the community schools strategy in 7 schools has helped to strengthen and deepen community-based, collaborative structures working to support student success throughout the community (including non-SIG sites). The strategy has, previously, been funded in different capacities by School Improvement grants and Promise Neighborhood planning grants. The Promise Neighborhood 2012 implementation grant will help sustain the community school strategy in this neighborhood.
·         Los Angeles Promise Neighborhoods (CA) – Youth Policy Institute’s Promise Neighborhood helps support the Pacoima and Hollywood neighborhoods. The grant is leveraging YPI experience providing saturation services in a place- based model for youth and families through initiatives that includes the Full-Service Community Schools (FSCS) programs. The San Fernando Valley FSCS Program began services in Fall 2010 and is targeting the same community as the Los Angeles Promise Neighborhood in Pacoima. Los Angeles Education Partnership (LAEP) is a partner of this initiative.
·         Ogden United for Promise Neighborhoods (UT) – Ogden’s Promise Neighborhood Planning grant hopes to develop a unified academic, family, and community support network that will be essential for improving the academic outcomes for Ogden’s children and youth. Part of the Promise Neighborhood plan for Ogden includes developing a plan to scale up the community school programs that are already working effectively in Ogden schools.
 
The Race to the Top and Promise Neighborhood grant competitions have been the Obama Administration’s signature education strategy. The Coalition is encouraged that community school initiatives align with the President’s values for a better American educational system.
 
New Mexico Proposes Community Schools Legislation and Funding
The New Mexico state legislature has two proposals to support community schools during the 2013 legislative session. The first proposal is the Community Schools Act, which would amend the Public School Code to include community schools. This bill would allow districts to use funds to transform "priority" or "focus" (low-performing) schools into community schools, with the goals of improving school climate and/or student achievement and growth, as well as creating incentives to grow and sustain community partnerships that contribute to improved school climate and/or student achievement and growth.
 
The second proposal is the inclusion of $2.5 million in New Mexico’s General Appropriations Act of 2013 to expand grades pre-K through 12 school-based behavioral health center services throughout the state. According to information from Elev8 New Mexico, this funding would provide around $44,000 to each of the state’s 56 funded school-based health centers, allowing for increased service hours and behavioral health capacity in the schools. Given that 85% of students report they are likely to follow school-based health center advice and 72% report they have changed behavior after a school-based health center visit, this funding would serve as a valuable investment. For more information or to help advocate, contact Ruth Williams, Public Policy Director of Youth Development Inc.-Elev8 New Mexico at rwilliams@ydinm.org.
 
New York Wants Community Schools Across the State
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is planning to push legislation that incentivizes school districts to adopt community school strategies similar to the successful community school initiatives in New York City, Syracuse, and Buffalo.
The governor’s recommendations are part of a sweeping education reform plan that includes providing more high-quality early childhood programs and expanding learning time for students. The education plan was first mapped out by a special commission appointed by the governor that suggested that more Empire State schools implement health, social and other wraparound services similarly to schools in New York, Syracuse and Buffalo. The commission also cited the success of community schools in Cincinnati and making their case.
 
Implementation of FSCS in San Pablo, California:
Walter T. Helms Middle School, San Pablo’s first full service community school (FSCS), is now the hub and model for the city’s Full Service Community School (FSCS) initiative. West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution to implement full service community schools throughout the district, beginning with its high schools that have school based health centers and two elementary schools, one with a dental clinic in operation. The board of education’s resolution comes on the heels of the San Pablo City Council passing legislation to develop a San Pablo FSCS Initiative with the goal of transforming all schools in the city into Full Service Community Schools.
 
The next phase of their initiative will involve intensive community and multiple stakeholder engagement, visioning and the development of goals, the creation of task forces made up of experts and stakeholders. The City of San Pablo’s FSCS Engine Team plans to convene community stakeholders in January 2013.  
 
Additional Resources
 
The Coalition for Community Schools is hosting Scaling Community-School Partnerships Seminars, day-long tutorials on strategic alignment and scale up of community schools in:
·         Los Angeles – March 17 – 19, 2013 (Tentative)
·         Palm Beach – May 2 – 3, 2013
 
For highlights from the Coalition’s National Forum 2012 on Scaling Up, click here.   
 
School districts, school leaders and community partners are welcome to attend the Scale Up seminars above. If you are interested in attending, please contact Reuben Jacobson at jacobsonr@iel.org or 202 822 8405 ext 131.
 
 


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