New York City has been nationally recognized for a strong system of Community Schools that began in the 1990’s. Since the 1990’s, NY state’s Community Schools have been growing and evolving, necessitating a higher level of collaboration to support the growth and sustainability of Community Schools statewide.
A collaboration of NY state Community School leaders first materialized during the 2014 national Community Schools conference hosted by the Coalition for Community Schools. A state breakout session provided an opportunity for NY Community School leaders to convene and discuss collaboration opportunities. Participants included New York State United Teachers, the NY Governor’s Office, Say Yes to Education, United Federation of Teachers, NYC Coalition for Education Justice, Alliance for Quality Education, New York State Network for Youth Success (then known as New York State Afterschool Network), National Center for Community Schools, Children’s Aid (then known as The Children’s Aid Society), and New York State Cradle to Career Alliance.
Participants agreed to reconvene post-conference, thus launching the New York State Community Schools Network (NYS CSN). At its inception, the NYS CSN had no formal backbone entity. Children’s Aid, one of NY’s most experienced and highly recognized Community School organizations, committed staff time to informally fill the role of backbone and provide administrative and facilitation support.
Just before the network’s founding, the state of New York started investing in Community Schools, awarding a total of $30 million in funding to schools to plan and implement Community Schools over 3 years. A competitive 3 year grant cycle was launched in 2013 at $15 million, and this grant cycle was repeated again in 2014 at $15 million. Once the network launched, efforts were focused on growing and sustaining funding for Community Schools. Due to the expected growth in Community Schools through this funding, network members also identified the need for high-quality technical assistance.
New York state shifted its investment in Community Schools away from the competitive grant process after round 2 of the grant cycle, and included Community School strategies under a Foundation Aid set aside starting in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. A set aside of $100 million for districts considered Struggling or Permanently Struggling, qualifying districts could apply for these funds to support transformational strategies including Community Schools. This set aside increased in FYs 2018 and 2019 and is now at $250 million.
Since 2015, NYS CSN has hosted yearly statewide advocacy days. Network members, Community School Coordinators, and students have convened each year in Albany (or virtually during the pandemic) to meet with state policy makers and advocate for support of NY Community Schools. The networks’ efforts contributed to a successful outcome in FY 2018, with the state of NY investing in three regional Technical Assistance centers at $1.2 million annually for five years.
In 2019, the network desired a more formalized structure with a dedicated organization to serve as a backbone. The network released a survey gauging interest of member organizations and several organizations volunteered. A vetting process was used to identify a willing organization with an ideal location and the necessary capacity, influence, and expertise to serve this role. The state’s afterschool network, New York State Network for Youth Success (NYSNYS), was chosen as the backbone and Alli Lidie, employed by the NYSNYS and a member of the NYS CSN since its inception, stepped in to support the administrative and facilitation needs of the network.
The NYS CSN continues to “advocate to develop, promote, and sustain community schools in collaboration with government, local school districts, and community partners”, developing a yearly policy agenda and continuing its advocacy activities to promote Community Schools in New York state.
The New York State Community Schools Network is a network partner of the Coalition for Community Schools at the Institute for Educational Leadership (firstname.lastname@example.org). For more information on the NYS CSN, contact Alli@NetworkForYouthSuccess.org