AFT Resolution

COMMUNITY SCHOOLS: HELPING STUDENTS THRIVE IN OUR SCHOOLS AND COMMUNITIES

WHEREAS, the American Federation of Teachers has long believed in and worked to advance a comprehensive vision for public education that promotes children’s well-being; supports powerful learning; builds teacher and staff capacity; and fosters cultures of collaboration among educators, administrators, families and communities, recognizing that these values are inherent to the community schools model; and

WHEREAS, community schools are not just another program, but a paradigm shift in the way we think about schools that goes beyond providing supports and services for students; and

WHEREAS, by establishing partnerships, community schools provide a variety of services, supports and enriched learning opportunities to students, parents, school staff and the community based on a comprehensive asset and needs assessment, providing a sustainable way to support their communities’ physical, emotional and academic needs, as well as aid in economic recovery and stabilization that benefit students and adults alike; and

WHEREAS, there are fundamental principles that must govern the creation of community schools, including the four pillars that have been established in research on the efficacy of community schools, including “An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement”:[1]

1.          Integrated student supports

2.          Expanded learning time and opportunities

3.          Family and community engagement

4.          Collaborative leadership and practice; and

WHEREAS, community schools build a culture of open and purposeful collaboration where everyone involved—community partners, families, school staff and administrators—shares responsibility for continuous improvement in both academic and non-school-related outcomes; commits to building a culture of open and purposeful collaboration; and seeks to build a diverse consortium of stakeholders who reflect the community they serve; and

WHEREAS, community schools establish collaborative structures and practices such as site-based decision-making teams that include educators, school staff, school administrators, parents, community leaders, and students who engage in the planning and decision-making process for the school; and community schools utilize a site coordinator to ensure partners are working together to get students access to resources and supports attuned to their needs and talents; and

WHEREAS, the AFT believes all students have a right to learn and achieve academic success—regardless of where, or under what circumstances, they live—and recognizes the impact racism and inequity has on access to high-quality education, healthcare and employment opportunities for people living in poverty and people of color; and

WHEREAS, there are many examples of the community schools strategy being used to foster the principles of social justice and equity, community self-determination, valuing community knowledge and wisdom, shared leadership, transparency and trust relationships, reflective learning culture, and a whole-person approach to education that are backed up by research; and

WHEREAS, research from the Learning Policy Institute and the Institute for Educational Leadership shows that when implemented as a comprehensive model with fidelity, schools and communities both benefit from:[2]

·            Reduced health-related obstacles that cost students instructional time;

·            Decreased student mobility rates. When schools serve as hubs of the community, families can establish roots rather than moving around to receive necessary services;

·            Increased family involvement;

·            Stronger community involvement and schools that reflect the communities they serve; and

·            Potential for reduced racial and economic achievement gaps; and

WHEREAS, community school models across the country demonstrate how schools and communities can connect to help all students learn and thrive regardless of politics, demographics or geography, including how to:[3]

·            Manage space and resources, and design new community schools or redesign existing schools and buildings and co-located spaces for community school use; and

·            Connect non-school personnel and experts to schools in a sustainable way; and

·            Leverage support from outside organizations, including government, private not-for-profit and philanthropic organizations; and

·            Build grassroot support and engagement among families and community leaders in community schools; and

·            Leverage federal, state and local funding resources for growth and sustainability; and

·            Bring new opportunities to underserved or economically depressed communities:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers will join with coalition partners in calling for 25,000 community schools by 2025.[4]https://www.communityschools.org/

RESOLVED, that the AFT will:

·            Affirm its commitment that every school should have access to resources to develop a community school model, including a designated community school director/coordinator—an essential resource to link services and develop community partnerships; and

·            Expand our community schools initiatives from the more than 700 community schools we currently support nationwide to 2,500 schools over the next five years; and

·            Urge local union affiliates to partner with school districts, local government entities, political leaders, and labor and community leaders to transform the schools serving our neediest students into community schools to bring together, under one roof, the services and activities our children and their families need;[5] and

·            Be unapologetic about efforts to create anti-racist, culturally sustaining schools and will support all locals that desire to address systemic and structural racism, social justice and inequity within their schools as part of their community school strategy; and

·            Elevate the work already being done across the country and support locals and states that want to establish, sustain or expand the community schools model for prekindergarten through higher education; and

·            Use education, political and legislative advocacy, as well as grassroots organizing with locals, community partner organizations and coalition allies to increase the number of community schools nationwide, and support state and federal legislation and programs that fund community schools as part of a strategy to improve struggling schools; and

·            Support federal and state legislation that enables school districts to accelerate new construction and/or renovation of community schools to accommodate their various functions and to build them to green and sustainable standards such as those of the U.S. Green Building Council, the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) system or the Collaborative for High Performance Schools; and

·            Call for ongoing, high-quality research into community schools’ best practices, staffing models, and approaches to implementation that ensure community schools enhance academic standards and other meaningful outcomes; and

·            Create and deliver professional development so that members are equipped to advocate for and implement community schools strategies as part of a comprehensive model for school improvement; and

·            Foster opportunities for locals to network and learn from each other’s experiences; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will call on policymakers at all levels to recognize the transformative power of community schools and their unique capacity to serve all students, and to use their authority to fund and support the community schools model with fidelity; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will call on:

·            The U.S. Congress to pass comprehensive legislation, such as the Full-Service Community School Expansion Act, to sustainably fund community school initiatives at the federal level; and

·            The U.S. Department of Education to establish a database of community schools and disseminate findings to guide research, policy and implementation; and

·            The Department of Education to advocate for the consideration of those findings when Congress modifies legislation like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and other legislation, budgetary items and competitive grants; and

·            States and school districts to ensure that community schools are not a pretext to bypass contractual agreements; reduce standards for existing, normal operating school hours; lessen those standards during after-hours operations; displace existing services and/or staff; or weaken existing crucial health and safety regulations, and will support locals in developing and articulating their bargaining demands related to implementing and sustaining community schools; and

RESOLVED, that the AFT will advocate for funding at the federal level dedicated specifically for creating additional community schools and supporting the hiring of community school directors/coordinators to lead the critical work of aligning community services with family and student needs.

 

(July 16, 2022)

(2022)

Please note that a newer resolution, or portion of a resolution, may have superseded an earlier resolution on the same subject. As a result, with the exception of resolutions adopted at our most recent AFT convention, resolutions do not necessarily reflect current AFT policies.