Saturday, February 6, 2010

Community Schools ( from idea to legislation and funding)

The fact that many students come to school with significant social needs unmet is not a revelation.

A lack of routine medical care, in-home academic support and limited knowledge about how the school system really works are just a few examples.

Community schools represent thinking that physical school plants can be transformed into extended service providers that meet local neighborhood needs.

Apparently there is strong evidence available suggesting this is a reasonable approach to improving education outcomes in certain unusually high stressed communities.

Legislation was reintroduced in September, 2009 called the Full Service Community Schools Act. It seeks to provide some $200 million each year for five years to fund partnerships, through grants, with community-based organizations for needed services.

The legislation, so far, has not seen the light of day. And, in the current climate of huge budget deficits and other heavyweight fiscal issues, I doubt it will surface any time soon.

But that does not and should not stop individual communities from taking advantage of the idea. Local charitable resources could be directed toward creating local "test sites" with the aim of replicating other national success stories.

Examples appear to be Harlem Children's Zone as well as some 150 Chicago area schools that were transformed into community schools.

As we rightly and loudly complain about blooming federal programs and deficits, we still must pursue workable strategies to improve learning and quality of life.

And that costs money. The only choice appears to something akin to "pay me now or pay me later."

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