Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood at the Binghamton University Downtown Center 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.”
“We are thrilled to highlight this legislation and are thankful to Senator Gillibrand for her support of these vital programs,” said Laura Bronstein, Dean of Binghamton University’s College of Community and Public Affairs. “Binghamton University’s Community School initiatives have allowed us to tackle disparities in both health and educational achievement, at a time when the needs of so many children and families couldn’t be more dire.”
“We are proud of the work being done by Dean Bronstein and her team of staff and students at the College of Community and Public Affairs with our Community Schools initiative. This program is a model in New York state and beyond and is literally changing lives for children in our public schools system.” said Harvey Stenger, Binghamton University President. “We are grateful for Senator Gillibrand’s visit today which is helping to shine a spotlight on this important program and we thank the Senator for working at the federal levels to support and expand programs like this.”
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.
Binghamton University Community Schools (BUCS) developed and facilitates the nation’s only county-wide university- assisted community school network. The program provides technical assistance and support to 10 school districts, including 23 schools in Broome County. The Regional Network convenes and supports 15 Community School Coordinators (CSCs) who collaborate with community partners to provide services to students whose classroom performance can benefit from extra supports. CSCs mentor each other and work together to address specific student and family needs as well as universal concerns, such as chronic absenteeism and family engagement. CSCs also provide professional development for masters- level Social Work Fellows and help prepare them to serve children, families, schools, and communities.
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.