Biden Administration Boosts Grants for Community Schools, Sharpens Funding Priorities

By Libby Stanford — July 12, 2022 2 min read
First-graders Rhiannon Hanson, left, and Holden Ashbrook make fruit skewers in class at Lincoln Elementary School in Dubuque, Iowa, on Jan. 20, 2022. Project Rooted has partnered with Dubuque Community Schools for a pilot program in which it provides monthly boxes containing local foods and a project to first-grade classrooms.
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The Biden administration will prioritize community schools that provide integrated support, expanded learning opportunities, collaborative leadership, and family and community engagement when awarding $68 million in grants through its Full-Service Community Schools Program.

The U.S. Department of Education announced finalized rules and an increase in funding for the program Tuesday. The program has awarded federal funds to schools that provide access to health care, nutritional assistance, mental health supports, violence prevention programs, and tutoring and enrichment opportunities for over a decade.

In past years, the U.S. Department of Education has dedicated a relatively smaller amount, ranging from $5 million in 2009 to $17.5 million in 2018, to community schools. The increased funding in 2022 comes as the administration is proposing to dedicate $468 million to the program in the fiscal 2023 budget.

“For low-income rural and urban communities hit hard by the pandemic, Full-Service Community Schools will help us meet the holistic needs of students, drive our recovery, and pave the way to a more equitable future,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement.

The new rules require that schools demonstrate a commitment to “four pillars of community schools”: integrated student supports that address out-of-school barriers to learning; expanded learning time and opportunities; family and community engagement; and collaborative leadership and practices “that build a culture of professional learning, collective trust, and shared responsibility.”

The principles are aimed at assuring higher-quality community schools that directly involve school partners, community organizations, and families, the notice said. The department released the proposed rules in January.

“We applaud the Department’s focus on high-quality implementation of community schools as not only an effective strategy for school improvement but a means to help all children and families realize their fullest potential in and out of school,” said a public comment submitted by Gina Martinez-Keddy, executive director of Parent Teacher Home Visits, a Sacramento, Calif.-based nonprofit dedicated to improving parent and teacher relationships.

The department also created a framework for community school programs to be implemented at the individual school, district, and statewide levels, prioritizing applicants who plan to develop more than one community school in a state or region.

The new rules are part of a flurry of recent education initiatives from the administration. Last week, the White House announced a plan to bring in 250,000 tutors over the next three years through partnerships with AmeriCorps and 75 education organizations. The Education Department has also tightened regulations on incoming charter schools, cracking down on for-profit charter organizations that lead to schools closing within the first few years of opening.

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