Community Schools Bill Introduced in Congress

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The AFT welcomed the introduction in Congress this month of the Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2009—new legislation that would put federal resources squarely behind the types of successful school models that took center stage in the union's recent Back-to-School Tour '09.

House Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) introduced the bill on Sept. 9, and a companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.). Most of the money would be used for grants to coordinate education, developmental, family, health and other comprehensive services at public schools through community-based organizations and through public and private partnerships. The legislation would authorize $200 million for each of the next five fiscal years.

The list of services that would be supported by the bill is extensive. Among them: early childhood education, remedial education and enrichment, primary health and dental care, mental health counseling, parent involvement and family literacy, mentoring and youth development, parenting education, child care, community service and service learning opportunities, and job training and career counseling. Priority would be given to grantees that serve two or more schools where at least 40 percent of children are from low-income families, demonstrate a record of effectiveness, serve more than one community school, and bring together key stakeholders, including teacher unions.

"Full-service community schools remove the roadblocks that keep students from taking full advantage of their education," Hoyer said at a Sept. 9 Capitol Hill press conference, where he was joined by Nelson to introduce the bill.

Schools already bringing this type community-based approach to public education were featured this month in St. Louis, Houston and other stops along the AFT's eight-city tour that showcased public education's success stories.

September 17, 2009