BUFFALO, N.Y. March 11, 2022 — Standing with students, parents, school officials and legislators in Buffalo 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 West Hertel Academy and Lydia T. Wright schools on Friday, officials highlighted why expanding the number of community schools is a cornerstone of NYSUT’s Future Forward campaign, and how the success of Buffalo’s community schools underscores why that is so critical. Expanding to 24 schools since the program’s inception in 2016, Buffalo community schools offer a diverse range of services, including health clinics, Parent Centers offering family resources, and the popular Saturday Academy program attended by more than 11,000 students, parents and community members this school year. The schools also offer wellness and legal clinics, virtual and in-person workshops, and additional resources in collaboration with community-based organizations that include Say Yes Buffalo and other Buffalo-based groups.
“BPS community schools have a major impact on the lives of thousands of children and their families every single day,” Interim Buffalo Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tonja Williams said. “From academic supports to after-school programs to our Parent Centers, we know that when students and families have the supports they need, they will thrive, as will their neighborhoods and our city. We’re proud of what we are accomplishing with the help of our community partners, and we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with educational leaders across the state in advocating for every student to have access to transformational community school programs.”
Replicating this success requires a significant infusion of state resources. Statewide, just less 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.
“Buffalo’s community schools have been transformational for our students and families,” state Sen. Sean Ryan said. “Replicating Buffalo’s successes across Western New York and the state would take our public education system to the next level. I’m proud to stand with our students, parents and educators to call on my colleagues to work with us to fund community schools in the state budget.”
“We can’t keep ignoring the underlying issues that students and families have long been grappling with and that have worsened during the pandemic,” Assemblymember Jon Rivera. “We have to meet those challenges head-on with robust community schools. And there’s no reason why we can’t help bring that model to every school district across the state, and I’ll be advocating in Albany this month for the funding to do just that.”
Buffalo 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.
Future Forward: Learning from Community School Success Stories in Buffalo and Syracuse