Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at Dr. Weeks Elementary School to call for legislation to expand community school funding and bolster services for low-income and underserved students, families, and communities. The Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2021 would deliver more than $3.6 billion to expand community schools in New York State and around the country to provide integrated student support, 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. Currently, the Full-Service Community Schools grant program is funded at just $30 million and does not have adequate funding to serve New York school districts in need of resources to establish community schools or support those already established. The American Rescue Plan delivered funding to support schools and students throughout this crisis, but more resources are needed to help community schools meet heightened student needs.
Gillibrand recently reintroduced the bicameral Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2021 alongside U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and U.S. Representative Mondaire Jones (D-NY). The bill would deliver essential resources for school districts to plan for, implement, and expand community schools in New York State and across the country. It would also further develop the infrastructure to support and provide technical assistance for schools and districts using the community schools model.
“This pandemic has only deepened the challenges educators and school staff face while trying to support students struggling inside and outside of the classroom — underserved students are at even higher 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.”
“Community schools provide resources to children and families that can help bridge the gaps inequities have created. By placing tools and support systems inside schools to address issues like food security, medical and mental health services, broadband connectivity, and expanded learning opportunities we are creating community hubs where all of our children and families have access to the ability to thrive. I am proud to join Senator Gillibrand in calling for Congress to pass the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act,” said New York State Senator Rachel May, 53rd District.
“Providing wraparound services for our students and families is an integral part of what we do in the Syracuse City School District and it helps our children to achieve academic success,” said Superintendent Jaime Alicea. “The community schools model and the funding provided through the community schools grant is essential to helping us make sure all the needs of our students and families are met.”
Dr. Weeks Elementary School is one of the first community schools in the Syracuse City School District to provide wraparound services for children and families living below the poverty line. Many of those students come from North Side’s growing refugee community and nearly 25% of the students are English as a Second Language (ESL) learners. Since becoming a community school, Dr. Weeks Elementary has turned into an around-the-clock hub for refugees and other families in the community to come for medical care, parenting advice and solutions to obstacles in- and outside of the classroom that are affecting students’ education.
Specifically, the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2021 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 health care and early childhood education, and connect LEAs with other statewide institutions and funding opportunities.
A summary of the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act of 2021 can be found here.
Full text of the legislation can be found here.