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Statehouses Take on Community Schools Legislation


 The 2013 legislative session has seen several state governments introduce, and in some cases, pass legislation that bolster the community school approach in their states.

It’s a clear indication that the ground-level success of local community school initiatives has sprung an organic grassroots campaign to influence broader policy.
Here’s a snapshot of state-wide community schools bills:
Connecticut: Education, civil rights, and policy leaders have thrown their support behind a new bill in Connecticut to allow struggling schools districts to adopt community school strategies. Under the proposed legislation, eligible school districts will be able to identify two elementary schools and one high school within their district to become a community school.
These schools will include a resource coordinator that will conduct an audit of the schools resources and community’s needs.
Both of the state’s teacher union affiliates were the key drivers to get the bill before lawmakers. The legislation has support from the state’s senate president, the mayor of Hartford, and the state chapter of the NAACP.
Connecticut also included community schools strategies in its No Child Left Behind Waiver plan.
New Mexico: Earlier this month, Governor Susana Martinez signed the Community Schools Act. The bill formally defines community schools in the state’s Public School Code and clears the way for grants and other funding to be tied specifically to community schools. The advocacy of Elev8 New Mexico and Youth Development, Inc. led by Coalition Steering Committee Frank Mirabal was instrumental in the successful passage of this legislation.
Albuquerque has several established community schools through a cooperative agreement between the school district, the city and county governments, and local business groups.
New Mexico lawmakers are also considering a second proposal that would allocate $2.5 million in the state General Appropriations Act of 2013 to expand school-based behavioral health center services from pre-K through 12th grade throughout the state.
New York: Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing legislation that incentivizes school districts to adopt community school strategies similar to the state’s successful community school initiatives in Buffalo, Syracuse, and New York City. 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 and was first mapped out by a special commission appointed by the Governor. The commission recommended that more New York schools implement health, social and other wraparound services.
The governor’s education plan would allocate $15 million to expand community schools throughout the state through a competitive grant process. New York City’s teacher union, the United Federation of Teachers, led the charge to open six new community schools in the city. The initiatives in Buffalo through Closing the Gap and in Syracuse through Say Yes to Education Inc. have seen tremendous success improving the academic achievement of their students and bringing the communities and their agencies together, and many New Yorkers hope to see similar success in other regions of New York with the Governor’s new focus on a community schools approach.
Across the country, lawmakers are indicating their support for exploring community school strategies for their respective states. In California, state Sen. Carol Liu is leading the charge for community schools legislation. The state already has a successful track record of implementing school-community partnerships with its Healthy Start initiative in the early 1990s. Ohio state Rep. Denise Driehaus has stated her desire to see Cincinnati Public Schools’ Community Learning Centers approach replicated across the state. And in Vermont, Governor Peter Shumlin has hinted at building community and school partnerships as part of his priorities in his upcoming term.
"My vision for Vermont education is clear: let’s offer – from birth to cap and gown, and beyond – the knowledge, creativity, civic lessons, and career opportunities every Vermont child deserves. Fulfilling this vision will require all hands on deck. And here’s the good news: this is what we do best in Vermont. In challenging times, we find common purpose," Gov. Shumlin said in his state of the state speech in front of the legislature in January.  

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