Senator Chris Larson and Representative Mandela Barnes both from Milwaukee unveiled the Community Schools Act on April, 15, 2015.

“The aim of the legislation is to provide start-up funding for community schools, which are defined by their focus on improving student learning, strengthening families, and developing healthier communities. To accomplish these goals, the community school model synthesizes academic, health, and social services with community partner collaboration to provide additional services to the greater surrounding communities.”

Senator Chris Larson stated, “We, as a state, need to come up with innovative ways to ensure every child has an equal and fair opportunity at a higher education. Our bill not only provides schools the resources to succeed academically, but will also allow our community schools to address factors we know impact a student’s ability to thrive in school, such as access to a healthy diet, counseling services, medical and dental care, and a safe environment before and after school.”

Representative Mandela Barnes said, “Access to quality public education is a freedom and right that every child deserves, and this legislation will help guarantee that our children and future generations have the necessary supports and skills to succeed year-round—both inside and outside of the classroom.”

The bill was never supported by the Republicans who controlled both the Assembly and the Senate.

Community schools are back in the news. Governor Tony Evers supports community schools as a way to meet the needs of students and their families at the local level.

Governor Evers’ 2019 budget will call for an increase of $1.4 billion to education funding for the next two years while reaffirming one of his campaign themes: “What’s Best for Our Kids is Best for our State.”

Information about Community Schools for this article came from two sources:

The National Education Association (NEA)

Information from the NEA website is in bold print.

The Coalition for Community Schools in partnership with the Institute for Educational Leadership provides a thorough guide regarding the implementation of Community Schools.

Information from the Coalition of Community Schools is in italics.

I. What is a Community School?

The National Education Association (NEA) definition is “Community School: A center of the community—open all day, every day, to everyone—that brings together academics, health and social services, youth and community development and community engagement under one roof, leading to improved learning, stronger families, and healthier communities.”

“A Community School is a set of partnerships that brings about a place of learning to help students overcome the barriers that cause them to lose focus and hope. What sets these schools apart is their emphasis on caring for and uplifting all of a child’s various needs (academic, health, nutritional, psychological, etc.). The schools are able to do this through a collaboration of several partners and volunteers, from pediatricians and dentists to mentors, and it is all provided on the school campus.”

“Community schools recognize that students cannot focus inside the classroom if their basic needs are not being met outside the classroom. Students who are hungry, sick, anxious, or troubled may be too overwhelmed to learn.”

There are more than 5000 Community Schools in the United States.

II. The Sustainable Community Schools (SCS) model is one method. It “considers the needs of the students and the families in the neighborhood; services that are currently provided at the school; the availability and capabilities of local provider agencies; and the willingness of school personnel to change course and accept a new way of operating.”

Each school will be unique to meet the needs of the community. Educators and school staff, families, and other partners within the community meet together to access the needs of the students, their families, and the community. This leadership team outlines the vision for the Community School and creates a strategic plan that will offer a wide range of opportunities and services.

The Community School hires a Coordinator who works closely with the principal to implement the strategic plan, to grow relationships with school staff and community partners, and to engage families and community members while evaluating the progress at all levels on a regular basis.

Community Schools Strategies, Goals, and Outcomes are in Part II.