Bipartisan Bill Would Expand Full-Service Community Schools

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) and Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Illinois) have introduced the Full-Service Schools Act of 2014, also known as HR 5168, which would create a grant program dedicated to growing more full-service community K-12 schools across the country.

A full-service community school is something akin to an educational convenience store, meaning students and families can get things such as medical visits at the same location as an education.

“Full-service community schools are a critical tool in the effort to close the achievement gap and ensure that we are graduating students who are college and career-ready,” stated Congressman Hoyer.

“This bill, which I am pleased to introduce with Rep. Schock today, is a bipartisan measure that will help children from low-income families close the achievement gap.”

The act authorizes five-year grants from the US Department of Education (DOE) which will assist in implementing the model.  Grants will be offered to states that are open to supporting these schools through state-wide education programming and to local partnerships between districts and community organizations.

At least 10% of the funding will be available to rural areas, and an advisory committee of representatives from the US Department of Justice, DOE, the US Department of Labor, and the US Department of Health and Human Services in coordination with the Secretary of Education will be utilized to improve connecting to federal programs and also issue an annual report to Congress.

Wyoming, Michigan, has a “community school” now, says Caroline Porter in an article for The Wall Street Journal.  And, on a recent weekday, people were dropping by for family counseling, food stamps, and job ideas at one central location, their local school.

School was not in session because of summer break, but the classrooms stayed open for public and private groups to utilize.  In this way, services can be brought closer to students and residents all year, and, as a bonus, can help boost student performance.

Everything has not been completely ironed out yet, like funding and doubts about community schools’ success, but there is hope.  The largest coordinator for this program, Communities in Schools, has experienced a 6% increase in its number in the 2012-2013 school year.  This organization covered schools in 26 states with more than 1.3 million students.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a grant last week of $52 million to establish 40 community schools in the city.  Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, expanded a program that placed state health services workers in 169 schools, up from 124 at the start of the 2012-2013 school year.  In Michigan’s Kent County, there are 28 community schools this year, up from eight in 2006.

Some schools have seen improvement in student attendance and math/reading scores.