Trends in community schools implementation

With $4.1 billion in funding for community schools grants and technical assistance, California has made the largest investment in community school implementation in the country. Its efforts, as well as those in other states, are examined in the Learning Policy Institute’s (LPI) recent report State Strategies for Investing in Community Schools.

Three approaches that states are using to bolster community schools are explored, including ongoing support through school funding formulas, competitive grant funding and capacity-building supports (like certification processes).

Community schools are local pillars that work to serve the needs of students and families through in- and out-of-school resources, supports and opportunities with an ultimate goal of helping young people thrive academically and personally.

An increasing number of states are investing in community school strategies to address long-standing educational and social inequities that were worsened by the pandemic. The LPI report, considering data from states’ American Rescue Act plans, state and legislative websites and other sources, describes initiatives taking place in eight states, including California.

Competitive grants

In the Golden State, competitive grant funding pays for the development of community school offerings. The California Community Schools Partnership Program (CCSPP) has received a $4.1 billion investment from the state for planning, implementation and coordination grants, as well as technical assistance. “This investment is intended to provide sufficient resources for every high-poverty school in California to become a community school within the next five to seven years,” according to the report.

New Mexico has also established state-funded grants for planning and implementation while Illinois and Vermont used Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) dollars to create a grant program addressing pandemic recovery efforts and a pilot program to help small and rural communities recover, respectively.

California also used ESSER funds — allocating $45 million in 2020 for a pilot competitive grant program aimed at sustaining and expanding existing community schools prior to funding CCSPP in 2021 and 2022. CCSPP is set to provide funding through 2030–31.

“The first funding round in 2022 awarded planning grants to 192 [local educational agencies] and implementation grants to 76 LEAs, representing 458 school sites. A second round of funding in 2023 awarded planning grants to 226 LEAs, with a second round of implementation grants in process as of April 2023,” according to the report. “The CCSPP also allocated approximately $140 million to create a network of regional technical assistance centers across the state, with coordination from a lead center, to provide support and assistance to LEAs and community schools.”

Beginning in 2023, an annual formative evaluation is required leading up to a final comprehensive report by the end of 2031 looking at outcome data (like student well-being and engagement), the kinds of services offered, and changes made in community schools as well as best practices.

Funding for all four states’ programs can be used for things like assets and needs assessments, staffing, programs and services, and data collection and evaluation, according to the report.


Across the eight states featured in the report, a handful trends emerged that may help others that are interested in pursuing community school development. These include:

  • An increasing number of states investing in community schools, using discretionary federal funds as well as state funds.
  • States are adopting a variety of approaches to supporting community schools — like capacity-building assistance, grant programs and ongoing school funding formula allocations — with many upping the level of support offered over time.
  • States tend to prioritize community schools funding for the highest-need schools and LEAs.
  • States are investing in evidence-based strategies to support implementation.
  • State support oftentimes incorporates investments in technical assistance as well as other forms of capacity-building.