Federal Support for Community Schools

What’s needed to make community school antipoverty programs more widely available is consistent federal funding.

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Community schools combine their educational mandate with other antipoverty programs designed to boost student achievement, stay open longer to increase parental and community involvement, and provide more noninstructional services than traditional schools. Most community schools enjoy relationships with nonprofit partners that make service delivery possible. What’s needed to make these programs available to schools nationwide is consistent federal funding as proposed by the Obama administration and championed by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), which could greatly increase the number of community schools and the depth of services offered.

Two of the administration’s hallmark education reform programs, Race to the Top and the School Improvement Grant program encourage the implementation of wraparound services at low-performing schools. Rep. Hoyer and Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) also introduced the Full Service Community Schools Act (H.R. 3545/S. 1655) in September 2009. The legislation aims to dramatically increase the number of community schools by providing $200 million in annual funding to states and districts to support community school development.

These programs can help states and school districts lay the groundwork for scaling up community schools. The Department of Education can maximize the effectiveness of community schools by offering specific guidance directing districts to offer services in partnership with local social services agencies. And any community school grant program should prioritize funding for those districts that demonstrate existing collaborative efforts.

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