Expanding Community Schools to All of NJ’s Low-Income Public Schools:

An Effective, Evidence-Proven Remedy to Advance Equity
New Jersey Community Schools Coalition

April 2022

 


Summary
Re-organizing low-income public schools in New Jersey as community schools would be a powerful strategy to advance equity. As a potential model, the current 5-year, $3 billion effort in California that began in February 2022 targets every low-income public school in that state. Educational researchers have concluded that such an evidence-based approach “…has the capacity to transform schools into student- and family-centered community hubs that provide a whole child education.”(1)

 

Community schools use evidence-based strategies to strengthen existing services and identify and add new services to reflect the needs of each individual school, its students and families, and its surrounding community. Strategies coordinate a range of services from each of 4 pillars: 1. Integrated student supports 2. Expanded learning time and opportunities 3. Family and community engagement 4. Collaborative leadership and practice.(2) A dedicated community school coordinator oversees and coordinates the services and outreach to students and families and works alongside a site-based leadership team to focus on the broader needs of each student, allowing them to overcome in-school and out-of-school barriers.


Model for Possible Implementation: California’s Five-Year Plan to Use the 4 Pillars of Community
Schools as an Organizing Strategy for Strengthening All High-Poverty Schools

  • California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP) is a $3 billion investment to allow every high-poverty public school to become a community school within the next 5 years

  • Vision is to use community schools as a strategy for districts to better and more rationally coordinate ongoing and new initiatives (3)

  • The California State Board of Education supported this new initiative as an “equity-enhancing strategy that aligns with and can help coordinate and extend a wide range of state, school, and district initiatives,” rather than as a stand-along program (4)

  • Funding for local educational agencies is allocated through June 30, 2028 for:

    • ​2-year planning grants

    • 5-year implementation grants

    • 1-year coordination grants

    • A $142 million set-aside for at least 5 regional technical assistance centers operated through local educational agencies (LEAs), with preference to those partnering with institutions of higher education (using a university-assisted community school model) or nonprofit community-based organizations

    • The State’s Department of Education would oversee the technical assistance centers; provide guidance and support to local schools; administer data evaluation and annual reporting efforts; and help build a robust community input and feedback process

    • These efforts build on substantive investments in community school expansion in the FY2020 and FY2021 budget cycles (5)

 

The Biden Administration Supports Community School Strategies

  • The U.S. Department of Education recognizes community school strategies as evidence-based under the 2015 Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA)

  • The Biden Administration has indicated its support of community schools as an allowable use of federal pandemic relief funds

  • It has more than doubled funding for federal Full Service Community School grants in its current federal budget, to $75 million, with the latest round of grants said to be released shortly

  • U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona indicated this month that the Administration is committed to an additional major expansion of community schools in its new proposed budget proposal for FY2023: “Disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic continue to take a toll on the physical and mental health of students, educators, and school staff. Recognizing the profound connection between physical health, mental health, and student's social and emotional wellbeing, and academic success, among other investments, the budget includes… a $468 million investment in Full-Service Community Schools and partnerships to provide integrated student supports.”(6)

Other States Using Federal Pandemic Relief Funds to Begin or Expand Community School Strategies for Post-Pandemic Recovery

  • At least 9 states are using federal relief funds for community school strategies, including California, New York, Maryland, Illinois, Vermont, and New Mexico (7)

 

New Jersey Community Schools Coalition’s National and State Partners

  • The New Jersey Community Schools Coalition (NJCS) is working in partnership with national and state partners to expand community schools in New Jersey

  • These partners include the national nonprofit Communities In Schools (CIS), which currently operates in more than half of all states and provides integrated student support services to over 1.6 million students

  • State partners include the Center for Human and Social Development, Saint Elizabeth University, which has partnerships with almost 150 NJ school districts

  • NJCSC also is able to access resources from its other national partners, including the Coalition for Community Schools (Washington, DC), along with the Netter Center (Univ. of Pennsylvania) and Binghamton University NY/NJ University-Assisted Community Schools Regional Network

 

(1) Anna Maier and Deanna Niebuhr, “California Community Schools Partnership Program: A Transformational Opportunity for Whole Child Education,” Learning Policy Institute Policy Brief, October 2021, p. 11. Available at: https://doi.org/10.54300/806.436.

(2) Anna Maier, Julia Daniel, and Jeannie Oakes, “Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence,” Learning Policy Institute and NEPC Research Brief, December 2017, p. 1. Available at: Community Schools as an Effective School Improvement Strategy: A Review of the Evidence(learningpolicyinstitute.org)

(3) Anna Maier and Deanna Niebuhr, 2021, p. 1.
(4) See California State Board of Education January 2022 Board Agenda, Item #02, Attachment 1, “Proposed California Community Schools Framework.” Available at: January 2022 Agenda Item 02 Attachment 1 - Meeting Agendas (CA State Board of Education) (cta.org). See also Naaz Modan, “Pandemic Spurs State Investment in Community School Model,” K-12 DIVE Brief, Feb. 1, 2022. Available at: Pandemic spurs state investment in community school model | K-12 Dive (k12dive.com)
(5) Maier and Niebuhr, 2021, p. 2, p. 10.
(6) U.S. Department of Education, “Statement of Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget,” March 28, 2022. Available at: Statement by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on the President’s Fiscal Year 2023 Budget | U.S. Department of Education

(7) Modan, 2022.