Community Schools Gain Traction in State Legislatures

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Community Schools provide neighborhoods with custom-tailored services and supports to promote the academic success and well-being of each child. Parents, teachers, community leaders, students, and local lawmakers work together making decisions to develop a network of resources that strengthen the learning environment.  

Congress’ recent approval of $75 million to be used for full-service community schools, a 150% increase from the previous fiscal year, signals a growing recognition of Full-Service Community Schools as an effective strategy for improving student outcomes. President Biden’s fiscal year 2023 request for $468 million dollars to fund Community Schools reflects the Administration’s focus on improving equity within the education system. These additional funds will make significant progress toward the field’s goal of 25,000 Community Schools by 2025. 

State Legislatures across the country also recognize the impact Community Schools have in cultivating a democratic, community-driven approach to school leadership. Since the beginning of 2022, thirty-nine bills have been introduced in state legislatures in support of expanding Community Schools, including creating funding opportunities for scaling and implementing new sites.  

In addition to establishing grant programs and allowing local educational agencies to utilize COVID relief funding for Community Schools, many of these bills develop sustainability plans for existing and new sites, such as hiring a Community School Coordinator. This full-time staff member will collaborate with the school leadership and community partners to assess the school’s needs and bring together support resources to ensure students have what they need to be successful both inside and outside the classroom. For example, an introduced bill in Rhode Island (S.B.2599) establishes up to nine grants for school districts to hire a Community School Coordinator and up to eighteen $100,000 grants for the expansion of Community Schools. The bill allows school districts to be reimbursed up to $100,000 for costs incurred for hiring a Community School Coordinator in fiscal year 2023, and funds the expansion grant program at $1.8 million in fiscal year 2024. 

Going Deeper: Funding for Community Schools 

Legislatures in Arizona, Hawaii, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington are working to establish grant programs to fund Community Schools. Though the specifics of these proposed grant plans vary from state-to-state, the majority of the ten bills introduced include funding for both scaling and implementation grants. The scaling grants provide schools and districts with the time and resources to develop plans for an effective strategy to execute on their vision for full-service Community Schools. Implementation grants offer between three to five years of funding to fulfill their plan and develop strategies to sustain the Community School once the state-funded grant expires.  

Eight bills introduced in California, New York, Minnesota, and the District of Columbia appropriate just over $182 million dollars to fund Community Schools either through grant programs or one-time payments to school districts and charter schools. Meanwhile, California has launched its historic $3 billion investment in Community Schools. Additionally, Minnesota and Ohio hope to be able to use remaining COVID Relief funds to offer extra support to educational agencies. For example, two bills in Minnesota (H.F.1064 and S.F.4 ) allow the Education Commissioner to utilize $2 million of federal COVID relief funds to issue expedited grants to full-service Community Schools significantly impacted by the pandemic and a third bill in the state appropriates $110,703,000 from the coronavirus capital projects fund for grants for digital connectivity technology projects and multipurpose community facilities, including full-service Community Schools.  

Going Deeper: Amendment to Current Statutes 

Maryland, Minnesota, and Oklahoma have a total of seven bills seeking to amend current statues pertaining to community schools or the rules governing the grantmaking process. Oklahoma’s bill (H.B.3374) authorizes the state education board to assist in awarding grants to local school boards to establish Community School pilot program sites. Minnesota’s House (H.F.4782) and Senate (S.F 4477) are considering bills that amend the current definitions relating to full-service Community School implementation and operations, making both districts and charter schools eligible for funding. The bills allow for $150,000 per site for a one-year planning period, and $200,000 for up-to three years for implementation of the plan. 

Going Deeper: Resolutions and Other Legislative Action 

Five states including Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Missouri have passed or are currently considering bills establishing broad support for Community Schools as a strategy for increasing access to a high-quality education. For example, Missouri’s bill (H.B.1820) establishes a “Council for Community Education” within the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and creates plans to fund Community Schools, New York’s resolution adds $100 million for Community Schools as categorical aid, and Indiana’s resolution (S.R.0031) highlights the Community Schools model and encourages the Senate to consider the adoption of its practices across the state. This resolution was unanimously passed in the Senate in February of this year. 

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