Community School Proposal To Be Introduced

Two Democratic state lawmakers are proposing more so-called “community” schools.

State Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) and Rep. Mandela Barnes (D-Milwaukee) say community schools offer a broader array of support from partners such as local businesses and social services agencies. And, said Larson, there would be resource coordinators to bring everything together and the schools would be public.

Under a bill Larson and Barnes are introducing, the state Department of Public Instruction would provide competitive grants to school boards to plan and implement community schools. The bill defines a community school as a public school other than a charter school that focuses on improving student learning, strengthening families, developing healthier communities, working with community partners to provide additional services to the surrounding community and providing wrap−around support services to pupils and their families.

The community school model is used in school districts across the country in an effort to address more than just academic needs of children, according to the Urban Strategies Council, and is especially used in areas with high poverty with neighborhood residents and families that may have poor access to health care services or meals.

The Madison Metropolitan school district recently received a $300,000 grant from a local foundation  to create four “community” schools in Madison.

Madison superintendent Jennifer Cheatham told the Wisconsin State Journal,  “Our goal is to raise student achievement for all and narrow and close achievement gaps but we cannot do it on our own. By better coordinating our efforts (and) creating a quilt of strong neighborhood centers with strong, full-service community schools, we’ll be able to make sure that the families that need coordinated services can actually get them.”

The bill draft is currently being circulated for support from other lawmakers. Today is the deadline for legislators to sign on as cosponsors.