New Legislation Introduced to Support Full-Service Community Schools
By Rhonda Bryant
On July 23, 2014, Congressman Aaron Schock (R-IL) and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) introduced the Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2014. The full-service community school model co-locates education services and a range of vital health and social services, serving as a “one-stop shop” for students, families, and the community. This bipartisan bill would amend the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to create a new competitive grant program, which would provide five-year grants to states, to implement statewide full-service community schools, as well as local partnerships between school districts and community-based organizations. A minimum of 10 percent of the funding would be designated for rural areas.
Proponents of the bill regard the community school model as a key strategy for increasing educational equity, narrowing achievement gaps, and graduating students who are college- and career-ready. This past April, the Coalition for Community Schools developed a framework to elevate community schools as a strategy to make our education system more equitable. The Coalition’s framework calls for three leadership structures:
- Community-wide leadership groups comprised of school districts, government agencies, United Way chapters, businesses, community- and faith-based organizations are responsible for overall vision, policy, and resource alignment;
- School-site leadership teams comprised of parents, residents, principals, teachers, community partners, and young people are responsible for planning, implementation, and continuous improvement; and
- An intermediary entity provides planning, coordination, and management.
Through this integrated approach to partnerships, governance, and systems, communities can ensure everyone has a voice in planning and orchestrating a full-service community school model that meet their locale’s unique needs.
Legislation to fund full-service community schools was introduced in prior congressional sessions, but it has never been passed. However, through the appropriations process, a competitive grant program was created and administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Grants were awarded from 2008 through 2010, and a new competition to award $10 million in grants in FY 2014 is now underway. While this funding from DOE is critical, the Full-Service Community Schools Act is essential codify the program and ensure its future availability.