The concentrated efforts of teachers, school staff and their unions to help establish community schools across the country is an example of solution-driven unionism at its finest. With the support of their unions, educators and school staff can successfully build meaningful and lasting relationships with their communities and management to bring the Community School Strategy to fruition.
The AFT supports its local affiliates, their community partners and management partners in initiating the community school Strategy. Another entry point for union leaders in advocating for this strategy is through collective bargaining. Through the collective bargaining level, we can help institute programs and services that strengthen the bonds between schools, families, and the community as a whole, and return schools to their rightful place as the heart of a neighborhood.
When negotiating to include the community school model in a contract, labor representatives should keep several things in mind:
- Ensure flexibility and self-determination for every school, in order to promote an effective use of local resources and strengths;
- Include provisions to ensure that teacher, school staff, and community member voices are heard and taken into consideration when forming the program;
- Establish opportunities to adopt effective programs like expanded learning time, parent-teacher home visits and other programs; and
- Provide the ability to manage and connect resources within a school, potentially by providing for new staff in the form of a school resources coordinator.
The legislative process also plays a meaningful role in establishing community schools. Properly drafted laws at the local, state and federal levels can provide the framework in which community schools can grow, and the drafting of policy is an excellent opportunity for community stakeholders to come together to voice their opinions and thoughts. The AFT supports and partners with the Coalition for Community Schools on federal policy, and also works with our state leaders and allies on local policy.