ELMIRA, N.Y. March 25, 2022 — Standing with school officials, area educators, community partners and legislators in Elmira 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 Fassett Elementary School 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 Elmira’s community schools underscores why that is so critical.
Working with numerous community partners, the district offers a laundry list of services to students and families that includes on-site health care, after school and summer programming, mentor programs, a weekend and vacation food backpack program, disciplinary intervention and even a student-run branch of the Corning Credit Union, to name only a handful.
“Community Schools in Elmira is a sustainable effort with long term vision,” Elmira City School District Superintendent Hillary J. Austin said. “Through the collaboration of Elmira agencies and programs, the school district can introduce and embed effective programming as part of the regular school day for students and families, allowing a seamless integration of needed services. From social and emotional support to vision and dental screenings, our educational approach is on the whole child — physical, social, emotional and academic. We are pleased to showcase our Community Schools model to our colleagues and community.”
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.
Elmira 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.