February 24, 2021

Van Hollen, Brown, Gillibrand Reintroduce Bicameral Legislation to Expand Community Schools, Support Students, Families & Communities

The Legislation Will Assist Schools and Districts in Maryland with Planning, Implementing, and Expanding Community Schools and Addressing the Needs of Communities Impacted by COVID-19

Today, U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) reintroduced The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act, a comprehensive bill to assist schools and districts in bringing in wraparound supports - including medical, mental, and nutrition health services, mentoring and youth development programs, technical assistance, and continuing education courses – to serve students, families, and communities. 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, which is especially important amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation is also sponsored by Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM). Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) is leading the House version of the bicameral bill, along with Rep. David Trone (D-MD).

There are over 200 community schools serving Maryland students, including 115 in Baltimore City. Last 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.  

“Throughout this pandemic, students and educators are facing unprecedented challenges. These challenges have underscored the importance of the community school model, which aims to not only provide students with a top-notch education but also connects families with other vital services they need. By addressing students’ needs inside and outside of the classroom, community schools help remove barriers and set up students for success. As we’ve seen in Baltimore and across Maryland, this innovative approach is proven to work – making a positive difference in the lives of our students and their families. I’m proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing this bill, and I will continue pushing to further invest in and expand our community schools to ensure our students and families have the tools to succeed,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

“Now more than ever, we must invest in our public schools to ensure our students and families have access to the basic physical, mental, and nutrition health services they need to keep them healthy and safe. By expanding the successful community schools strategy across the country, we can provide critical resources to support the well-being of students, families, and community members, and build out structural supports to help communities thrive,” said Senator Brown. 

“This pandemic has only deepened the challenges educators and school staff face while trying to provide quality education and holistic care for our most vulnerable students,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act will provide community schools with the resources and technical assistance they need to provide integrated student supports ranging from academic opportunities and mentoring programs to the critical nutritional, medical, and mental health services that will better serve students and families. I am proud to introduce this legislation alongside my colleagues, and will keep fighting to make sure New Yorkers, and Americans across the country, all have access to a brighter future that starts with quality care in the classroom and in the neighborhoods which these schools call home.”

“Every child deserves a quality education,” said Congressman Mondaire Jones. “But before our students can excel in the classroom, they must have their basic needs met. Community schools address the needs of the whole child by providing nutritional, medical, and mental health services; mentoring and youth development programs; technical assistance; and much more. As we work to ensure an equitable recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, community schools are one of the most effective tools to close gaps in educational attainment and ensure that students, families, and entire communities have the support they deserve. I’m proud to introduce the Full Service Community School Expansion Act to help provide every young person in Westchester and Rockland -- including in school districts like East Ramapo -- and across the country the opportunity to thrive in and outside of the classroom.”

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, 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.

The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act has been endorsed by a number of national organizations, including the National Educators Association (NEA), Coalition for Community Schools, and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). The bill has also been endorsed by several Maryland organizations including, AFT-Maryland, Maryland Coalition of Community Schools, Maryland Out of School Time Network, Maryland State Education Association, Strong Future Maryland, Promise Heights, and the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland. 

“There has never been a more critical time to expand the Full-Service Community Schools resources as we enter a period of renewal and recovery for schools. Community Schools Coordinators and implementation of Community Schools strategies will be indispensable in getting young people reconnected to learning; fostering communication between schools, families, and communities; and providing additional supports for social-emotional healing and academic acceleration.,” said Ellie Mitchell, Executive Director of Maryland Out of School Time Network.

“Educators understand firsthand that learning does not happen in isolation and that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the many challenges students carry into the classroom. Community schools are a proven model that address the unique needs of the whole child. Community schools have supported students through the current crisis, and our state will be able to further expand them thanks to the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Community schools will ensure that the unique needs of students and families are met long after the pandemic is over. We greatly appreciate Senator Van Hollen’s efforts to support community schools in Maryland and across the country, and we ask Congress to take up this legislation immediately,” said Cheryl Bost, President of Maryland State Education Association.

“As a former teacher and principal, I know food insecurity, lack of access to proper vision and dental care, unaddressed mental health needs, and other challenges students and families face outside of the classroom can undermine students’ academic success and socioemotional well-being in the classroom.  These challenges have only been exacerbated by COVID-19 and the related economic crisis.  Coupled with the Blueprint for Maryland recently passed by the Maryland General Assembly, Senator Van Hollen’s proposed Full-Service Community School Expansion Act represents an important step forward toward addressing the needs of the whole child.  Implementation of high-quality full-service community schools initiatives can help close opportunity gaps facing students from low-income backgrounds,” said Dr. John B. King, Jr., President Obama’s Secretary of Education & Founder of Strong Future Maryland. 

“The Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland is proud to support the introduction of The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2021. Several Maryland school systems have embraced this innovative model that not only educates our students, but treats the ‘whole child’ by addressing family and community challenges that create barriers to the best educational opportunity for every student. These inequities have only been exacerbated during this pandemic so there could be no more important time to pass this innovative legislation,” said Mary Pat Fannon, Executive Director of the Public School Superintendents’ Association of Maryland.

“We’re honored to continue our support for the important educational work lead by Senator Van Hollen. He understands that students and families benefit from the deep relationships they build with community school coordinators and community-based partners. In areas from early childhood education to post-secondary readiness—and everything in between—community school partnerships fill the gaps that traditional public schools may be unable to address due to budgetary, staff, or time constraints. Transforming a school into a community school strengthens the bonds between students, families, staff, and community members which results in improvements in social determinants of health and increased academic achievement. We’re excited to support Senator Van Hollen as he expands the reach of Full-Service Community Schools,” said Bronwyn Mayden, Executive Director of Promise Heights and Assistant Dean of Community Engagement at UMSSW.

The bill is also supported by: the Institute for Educational Leadership, 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, Ohio Community Learning Center Collaborative, the School Superintendents Association, Adopt a Class, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, The Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania, National Association of Elementary School Principals, Communities in Schools National Office, National Association of School Nurses, First Focus on Children, the Education Redesign Lab at Harvard Graduate School of Education, MindPeace, National League of Cities, The Education Trust.

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