California community schools funding is front and center

Community schools have a bright future in California.

The state plans to invest $3 billion in the proven concept over the next seven years, including $649 million in community school grants recently approved by the State Board of Education and California Department of Education. This first round of planning and implementation funding is benefiting 268 school districts and county offices of education.

“Community schools have never been timelier as we work to help students recover academically, socially and emotionally from the ongoing pandemic. Educators are deeply involved in community schools work in urban, suburban and rural areas across the state,” said California Teachers Association President Toby Boyd during a June 6 press conference spotlighting the historic investment. “We know this is just the beginning in building the schools that our students and families deserve.”

The event also featured Gov. Gavin Newsom, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, SBE President Linda Darling-Hammond and the director of the UCLA Center for Community Schooling as well as students, parents and educators who are members of existing community schools.

As Thurmond noted, this is a movement long in the making that has reached a new level of importance after the pandemic and acts of hate students have witnessed in the past few years. Addressing the social-emotional learning needs and trauma of K-12 students will be key moving forward and community schools can help with that.

“The community schools model actually provides a means to incorporate all of those investments, nutrition services, access to physical and mental health care, increased training and support for educators, before- and after-school programs will be coordinated and orchestrated to reach the needs of children and families,” Darling-Hammond said.

The state’s investment also counteracts decades of disinvestment in public education, she added.

“We are in the process of doing more to reimagine public education than I believe any state in this country,” Gov. Newsom said. “We recognize that we need to break down the silos. We recognize that we have to engage the community and parents in a much more dynamic and meaningful way.”

The UCLA Center for Community Schooling is on hand to guide local educational agencies, said its director, Karen Hunter Quartz. The center’s technical assistance will be grounded in the four cornerstone commitments outlined in the community schools framework approved by the State Board in January:

  • Building on student, family and community assets
  • Creating and sustaining racially just school cultures
  • Engaging students in powerful, culturally rich learning experiences
  • Assuring that school communities are a part of the democratic process

“In these early days, we encourage teams to spend time on the critical first stage of implementation — bringing people together to develop a shared, community-based vision of schooling to guide your efforts. Have conversations with students, families, educators, partners and others about what you value and what it will take to transform education in your community,” Hunter Quartz said.