October 27, 2020

Van Hollen, Brown, Gillibrand Introduce Legislation to Expand Community Schools and Support Students, Families, and Communities

Legislation Will Assist Schools, Districts By Providing Integrated Student Supports, Further Developing Infrastructure to Support Community Schools

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) have introduced the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2020, legislation to help schools and districts expand services for students, families, and communities. The bill would provide new resources for public schools to be community hubs through integrated student supports, expanded and enriched learning opportunities, collaborative leadership, and family and community engagement – including medical, mental, and nutrition health services, mentoring and youth development programs, and continuing education courses. This legislation would also provide essential resources for school districts to plan for, implement, and expand community schools, and would further develop the infrastructure to support these schools. There are over 200 community schools serving Maryland students, including 115 in Baltimore City. 

“Now more than ever our students and families are facing challenges outside of school that impact their learning inside the classroom – from ensuring there’s food on the table, to access to health care, to having a place to call home. As we’ve seen in Baltimore and across Maryland, community schools are uniquely equipped to not only provide a top-notch education but also to connect families with other vital services they need. This innovative approach has been proven to work – making a positive difference in the lives of our students and their families. That’s why I’m proud to introduce this legislation to further invest in and expand our community schools. This bill is crucial to ensuring all of our students have the support they need to succeed,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

In July, Senators Van Hollen and Brown co-led a letter to Senate leadership requesting additional funds for community schools to be included in any future COVID-19 relief package. Senators Van Hollen, Brown, and Capito have also introduced Senate resolutions recognizing the value of community school coordinators.  

“Educators understand deeply the barriers to learning their students face in the classroom when their needs aren’t being met outside of it. Community schools bring together high-quality educational opportunities, wraparound services, and community and family engagement through collaborative leadership to support the growth and success of students. This legislation will help ensure all students receive a quality education and have access to opportunities, and we applaud Senator Van Hollen’s efforts to support community schools in Maryland and across the country,” said Cheryl Bost, President of the Maryland State Education Association. 

“Community Schools transform schools and amplify student success by removing the barriers to learning and creating a school climate culture that embraces, leverages  and activates community assets. Expanding Community Schools implementation should be a goal for every school and school district – particularly as we need new approaches to engagement and outreach during and in recovery from the pandemic. We would like to thank Senator Van Hollen for his leadership in sponsoring legislation that promotes research based education reform and innovation,” said Ellie Mitchell, Executive Director of Maryland Out of School Time Network. 

“We know evaluation is crucial for any evidence-based strategy. And having access to individual-level data is key for robust evaluation of the Full-service Community School strategy. It is imperative for students and families that Community School agencies work with school districts to evaluate interventions and programs for both academic and whole child outcomes. We're so pleased that a visit by Senator Van Hollen to our Community Schools several years ago, continues to inform our partnership. That he would reach out to practitioners in the field speaks volumes to his dedication to the students, families, and schools in Maryland,” said Bronwyn Mayden, MSW, who is Executive Director of Promise Heights and Assistant Dean of Community Engagement at University of Maryland School of Social Work. 

“Too many communities – rural, suburban, and urban – face inequities related to food security, healthcare, education, housing, and economic stability,” said Senator Brown. “School systems that were already struggling to support children and families have been strained more than ever by the public health and economic crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This legislation will invest in public schools and help them meet the needs of the whole child and the communities they serve.” 

“For far too many students in low-income and underserved communities, the challenges they face outside of school are carried into the classroom. Unfortunately the public health and economic crises caused by the pandemic have placed an even heavier burden on these students who were already at risk of falling behind, and cash-strapped public schools have had limited funding to provide adequate resources for students and their surrounding communities,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This legislation will deliver critical funding to support the comprehensive needs of students both in and out of the classroom. By investing in our public schools and strengthening connections to the community, we can help close the pervasive learning gaps in our country so that every student – no matter their socioeconomic status or zip code – can access a quality education.”  

Specifically, the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2020 would: 

  • Invest $3.65 billion over the next five years to plan, implement, expand, and support full-service community schools serving low-income students;
  • Provide renewable grant opportunities and additional resources to existing community schools to build collaborative leadership structures and strengthen wraparound services that support the needs of students, families, and neighborhoods. 
  • Build out community school infrastructure by funding the establishment of state-level teams that provide professional development opportunities and resources for community school staff, work with schools and local educational agencies (LEAs) to develop and implement restorative justice principles, and collaborate with LEAs on integrating supports for community schools; and
  • Set aside up to 5% of funds for technical assistance and support to leverage federal, state, and local resources that address healthcare and early childhood education, connect LEAs with other statewide institutions, and inform LEAs of funding opportunities.
 Read the bill one-pager here. 

“The Coalition for Community Schools, including our dozens of national, state, and local partners, are thrilled to support the Full-Service Community Schools Expansion Act of 2020. We were proud to work with Senators Brown, Van Hollen, and Gillibrand, and our community school leaders across the country to shape legislation that reflects the current best practices of community schools and to be bold in an appropriations level that recognizes the high need and demand across the country for this evidence-based strategy. We are grateful for the support and leadership of our Senate champions and look forward to working with them and other members of Congress to champion this significant legislation,” said Jose Munoz, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools, Institute for Educational Leadership. 

“All children, no matter their race or ethnicity, gender or gender expression, no matter where they come from or where they live, deserve a safe and welcoming school where they can thrive. Community schools play a critical role in delivering tremendous educational opportunities for students while also offering hope, opportunity and transformation to entire communities. The National Education Association commends Senators Sherrod Brown, Chris Van Hollen and Kirsten Gillibrand for their leadership in introducing the Full-Service Community Schools Expansion Act of 2020, which would improve and increase the federal investment in the community schools program. They understand and share in the vision that every student must be prepared to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world, and this federal legislation helps put students on that path,” said Becky Pringle, a sixth grade science teacher who serves as the president of the 3-million-member National Education Association. 

“Community schools recognize that schools can be so much more than where students learn basic instruction– they’re a model for how we rethink public education to serve the whole child, support their families, and re-center our schools as places of comity and support. Community schools answer a problem educators have long encountered – that a student, who is hungry or cannot see the board, will struggle to learn, and they allow schools to address needs that are social, emotional, physical, as well as academic. Now in the midst of this pandemic they are more important than ever.  By enabling schools to draw on partnerships with nonprofits, local government and businesses in order to help meet a host of student needs, community schools enhance student learning. The Full Service Community Schools Expansion Act of 2020, introduced by Sens. Brown, Gillibrand and Van Hollen would be a game-changer for public education. It will put states and school districts in a position to truly embrace a model that better meets the needs of students, particularly given the new and expanded challenges students are facing in the wake of the pandemic, the recession, and so much more,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers.  

This bill is supported by: the National Education Association, the Maryland State Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the Institute for Educational Leadership, the Coalition for Community Schools, Community Learning Center Institute, Children’s Aid, MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership, Healthy Schools Campaign, School-Based Health Alliance, StriveTogether, Journey 4 Justice, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, Maryland Out of School Time Network, Maryland Coalition for Community Schools, Promise Heights, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, GradCincinnati, Ohio Community Learning Center Collaborative, AASA, The School Superintendents Association, Adopt a Class, MindPeace, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National League of Cities, the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania.