May/June 2022 Issue
April 16, 2022

Local unions host lawmakers to showcase community schools

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
school visit
Caption: On site at West Hertel Academy, officials highlight 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. Photo by Matt Smith.

Standing with students, parents, school officials and legislators while visiting several public schools across the state this month, NYSUT 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.

The additional funding was not included in the enacted 2022–23 state budget, but the union continues its advocacy for this initiative.

“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.”

During lawmaker visits to West Hertel Academy and Lydia T. Wright schools in Buffalo, members of the Buffalo Teachers Federation and officials highlighted why expanding the number of community schools is a cornerstone of NYSUT’s Future Forward campaign, and how Buffalo’s community schools demonstrate that.

Syracuse features community schools with a wide array of services. At Dr. Weeks Elementary School, Syracuse TA leaders and officials saw the school’s on-site health center, community closet and Parent and Community Room used for adult education seminars and other neighborhood events.

At Saranac Lake’s high school and an elementary school — where the Saranac Lake TA represents staff — the community school program underscores why the program is so critical. Since its inception four years ago, the district has been joined by 20 community partners to deliver services ranging from internet assistance to a weekend food program to before- and after-school child care to telehealth, dental and eye care.

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 crucial community school coordinators could double the number of districts utilizing the model statewide.

Legislative allies are standing with unions and school communities in advocating for that funding.

“Buffalo’s community schools have been transformational for our students and families,” said state Sen. Sean Ryan, D–Buffalo.

“Today’s schools and educators are doing more than ever to provide supports that haven’t traditionally been part of public education,” said state Sen. John Mannion, D–Geddes. “We need to invest in more community schools so students and families have the best possible environment for learning and success,” he said.

Buffalo, Syracuse and Saranac Lake are just a few of the stops NYSUT has made to highlight the success of community schools. More information on the union’s Future Forward campaign is available at