November 30, 2023

Van Hollen, Brown, Gillibrand, Luján Introduce Legislation to Expand Community Schools to Improve Student Outcomes

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2023, a comprehensive bill to improve student outcomes by helping public schools and districts bring in wraparound support services including medical, mental, and nutrition health services, mentoring and youth development programs, technical assistance, and continuing education courses. Full-service community schools have a proven track record of producing tangible results for students – including advancing academic achievement and improving attendance. There are more than 450 community schools serving students across 22 of Maryland’s school districts.

“Community schools provide for our students’ needs both inside and outside of the classroom – helping break barriers to success that underserved young people often face. Across Maryland these schools have made a positive difference in the lives of our students and their families. This bill will further invest in and expand community schools across the country to provide students with the top-notch education and resources to help them on their way to a bright future,” said Senator Van Hollen.

This legislation would also provide essential resources for school districts to plan for, implement, expand, and renew full-service community schools, and would further develop the infrastructure to support these schools. The legislation is also sponsored by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.). U.S. Representative Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03) is leading companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“Ohio has proven how successful full-service community schools can be at improving academic achievement and student attendance. By expanding the successful community schools strategy across the state, we can support the well-being of students and parents to help Ohio parents and communities thrive,” said Senator Brown.

“Educators face monumental challenges trying to support students struggling inside and outside of the classroom. Underserved students are at a high risk of falling behind, and cash-strapped public schools have had limited funding to support them. The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act provides a solution,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This bill delivers vital resources, technical assistance, and infrastructure to support states, districts, and schools looking to implement or expand community schools. This expanded grant funding would allow for greater federal support for community schools across New York and the country to bolster student services through academic opportunities and mentoring programs, and provide critical nutritional, medical, and mental health services for students to thrive. I will keep working alongside my colleagues to pass this legislation and deliver critical funding to support the comprehensive needs of students both in and out of the classroom.”

“When I was growing up in Nambe, it took a village, and today should be no different. The community school model helps bring community resources into school buildings to improve children’s well-being, especially in low-income and rural schools,” said Senator Luján. “Investing in our community schools is an investment in our future. Last year, New Mexico received its first-ever awards from the federal Full-Service Community Schools grant program, helping public schools in Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Taos expand upon the groundbreaking work already being done in New Mexico. I'm proud to join my colleagues in introducing the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act to reauthorize and strengthen this vital federal grant program to ensure more schools can adopt this holistic model to support children’s well-being.”

“I spent more than two decades working with Nevada schools and students to strengthen our public education system, so I know firsthand that student success goes well beyond the classroom,” said Congresswoman Susie Lee. “When students have access to nutritional health services, tutoring, after-school programs, and mental health support, they perform better in school. But the sad reality is that far too many students don’t have access to these kinds of support systems. I’m proud to introduce the Full-Service Community Schools Expansion Act to invest in the health, stability, and academic achievement of our students by expanding wraparound services for the kids and families who need them most.”

Specifically, The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act 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, and collaborate with local education agencies on integrating supports for community schools;
  • Ensure Tribes, Alaska Native Corporations, Native Hawaiian organizations, and Tribal organizations receive priority consideration in the application process and are included in stakeholder coordination efforts;
  • Set aside up to 5% of funds for an elementary and secondary Bureau of Indian Education (BIE)-funded schools program for planning and capacity building, implementation, expansion, and renewal grants; 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 local education agencies with other statewide institutions, and inform LEAs of funding opportunities.

The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act has been endorsed by a number of state and national organizations, including the Maryland Out of School Time Network, the Maryland State Education Association, the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Indian Education Association, the Institute for Educational Leadership, the Coalition for Community Schools, First Focus on Children, the National Association for Elementary School Principals, the National Association for Secondary School Principals, MENTOR, Journey 4 Justice, the School Superintendents Association, Maryland State Education Association, Maryland Out of School Time Network, Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland, Communities in Schools New Mexico, Southwest Institute for Transformational (SWIFT) Community Schools, National Education Association New Mexico (NEA-NM), American Federation of Teachers New Mexico (AFT NM), ABC Community School Partnership, Nevada State Education Association, Communities in Schools of Nevada, Clark County School District.

“Community Schools are transforming public education in Maryland and supporting student's academic and social/emotional recovery from the impacts of the pandemic. We need to double down on this strategy and support high-quality implementation, ongoing expansion, and provide school districts the resources they need to realize the potential of Full-Service Community Schools and sustain their progress,“ said Ellie Mitchell, Executive Director of Maryland Out of School Time Network.

“Educators understand firsthand that learning does not happen in isolation. Community schools are a proven model that address the needs of the ‘whole child,’ ensuring that students and families have the community-centered support they need to succeed. The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2023 would enable us to build upon this great work and bolster the efforts of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. We greatly appreciate Senator Van Hollen’s support for community schools in Maryland and across the country, and we ask Congress to take up this critical legislation,” said Cherly Bost, President of the Maryland State Education Association

“The Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland is proud to support the reintroduction of The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2023. Community schools are an innovative model that improve student performance by addressing their needs holistically and in partnership with their communities. PSSAM applauds Senators Van Hollen and Brown and their colleagues for this important legislation,” said Mary Pat Fannon, Executive Director of the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland.

“Community schools are one of the best ways to meet the academic, social and emotional needs of our students and their families. They make our public schools hubs in their neighborhoods, combining academics with extended and hands-on learning opportunities; family and community partnerships; and an infusion of medical, mental health and other social services to help meet the challenges students and families confront today, including learning loss, loneliness and literacy. Through meaningful collaboration with families and deep community engagement, community schools become centers of their communities and are able to meet students and families where they are and give them the support they need to succeed. We are fighting to make community schools the norm, not the exception, and Sen. Brown’s legislation will help get us there,” said Randi Weingarten, AFT President.

“All students, no matter their race or ethnicity, gender, in urban, suburban, and rural communities, deserve a safe and welcoming school where they can thrive. Community schools play a critical role in delivering targeted and specific educational opportunities for students while also offering hope, opportunity, and transformation to entire communities,” said NEA President Becky Pringle. “The National Education Association commends Senator Sherrod Brown and Congresswoman Susie Lee for their leadership in introducing the Full-Service Community Schools Expansion Act of 2023, 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.”

“The Coalition for Community Schools, including our hundreds of national, state, and local partners, are thrilled to support the Full-Service Community Schools Expansion Act of 2023. We were proud to work with Senators Brown, Van Hollen, Luján, 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 of our House sponsor, Representative Susie Lee, and look forward to working with them and other members of Congress to champion this significant legislation,” said José Muñoz, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools, Institute for Educational Leadership.

A one-pager on the bill can be read HERE.