ALBANY, N.Y. March 25, 2022 — Standing with school officials, area educators and legislators in Albany today, New York State United Teachers called for a $100 million state investment to dramatically increase statewide the number of community schools, a game-changing model that helps students and families address the deeply rooted challenges they face that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Getting back to ‘normal’ isn’t good enough for our students — it’s time we demand a public education system that truly supports every child,” NYSUT President Andy Pallotta said. “When children face poverty, when their families face food insecurity, when they don’t have access to health care or social services, they don’t come to school ready to learn in the first place. That’s where community schools change the game, helping students and families thrive.”
Visiting Sheridan Preparatory Academy on Friday, officials highlighted why expanding the number of community schools is a cornerstone of NYSUT’s Future Forward campaign. The work done through Albany’s seven community schools underscores why that is so critical. More than 600 students participate in after-school programs supported by community school funding, and nearly 600 benefit from the Feed and Read weekend food program, a partnership the includes the Homeless and Travelers Aid Society and Albany Fund for Education. At Sheridan Prep, 320 families access a food pantry at the school, while at Tony Clement Center for Education, 63 families access laundry services that the school put in place using community school funding.
The district’s community schools also support extended learning opportunities and other programs and services for students and families in partnership with community organizations. These activities include workshops for parents and guardians to help them become advocates and facilitators for their children’s education, encouraging and empowering student voice, student character development, extended day programs, and hands-on STEM opportunities.
“The support from the state’s community schools funding has been invaluable for our school district,” said City School District of Albany Superintendent Kaweeda G. Adams. “This has allowed us to invest in a wide range of programs and services to benefit our students and families at these schools. These include extended-day programs, workshops for parents and guardians, hands-on STEM opportunities, programs to assist families with food insecurity, increased access to healthcare services and more. We urge the state to continue to expand community schools funding so students and families in other school districts throughout New York can also benefit from these critical services.”
Replicating this success requires a significant infusion of state resources. Statewide, fewer than 300 out of more than 700 school districts utilize the community school model.
New annual state funding of $100 million dedicated specifically to creating more community schools and hiring community school coordinators — invaluable staff who can both help develop community school programming and dedicate themselves to triage work connecting families in need with services not provided by the school itself — could double the number of districts utilizing the model statewide. It’s a smart investment: Nationally, a 2019 study from the ABC Community School Partnership estimated for every $1 invested in establishing a community school and hiring a site coordinator, the average return on investment was roughly $7.
Legislative allies are standing with unions and school communities in advocating for that funding in the state budget due April l.
“The aim of the community school model is to provide wrap-around services that eliminate barriers to learning,” state Sen. Neil Breslin said. “A student who attends a community school could have access to services like tutoring, homework help, ENL classes, or a meal, regardless of the income of a family. Community schools are a pillar of our society, and I will continue to support them.”
“It doesn’t matter if they’re in an urban, suburban or rural school district, every student can benefit from the services provided by community schools,” Assemblymember Mary Beth Walsh said. “I am thankful for the opportunity to tour Sheridan Prep in Albany to gain a better understanding of all of the beneficial programs community schools provide and hope to see financial support for them in this year's enacted budget."
“The community school model has the potential to not only help students succeed, but also connect kids and parents to services that aren’t always readily available,” Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said. “It’s a great opportunity to see these programs in action at Albany’s Sheridan Prep and explore opportunities that could benefit school districts across the state. Whether it’s a school district in an urban or rural area of our community, our students should have access to the resources they need to learn and grow.”
Albany is just one of a handful of stops NYSUT is making this month to highlight the success of community schools. More information on the union’s Future Forward campaign is available at futureforwardny.org.
New York State United Teachers is a statewide union with more than 600,000 members in education, human services and health care. NYSUT is affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.