By Amanda Litvinov and Cindy Long
The differences between the education budget proposals of the U.S. House and Senate reflect a deep divide on support for public schools and racial justice in education.
In June, the House passed a fiscal year 2020 funding bill with an $11.8 billion increase for labor, health and human services, and education. Title I, which supports schools serving large numbers of low-income students, and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) both received $1 billion increases. Funding for Title II, which helps states and districts recruit, prepare, and train teachers, was increased by $500 million.
In addition, the House bill doubles funding for the Full-Service Community Schools program, which supports schools designed to help solve problems faced by students in low-income, low-opportunity neighborhoods. Under the House plan, $40 million is dedicated to community schools, more than double the amount the program receives now ($17.5 million for FY2019).
In contrast, the Senate released its recommendation earlier this month to essentially freeze critical formula-funded programs, including Title I, Title II and IDEA, at last year’s levels. The Senate increased charter school funding by $20 million, while completely eliminating funding the Full-Service Community Schools program.
The Trump Administration budget, with the full support of education secretary Betsy DeVos, also zeroed out the community schools program for FY20, while requesting more than $40 million for charter schools.
That’s worth examining: Both the White House and the Senate are prepared to completely defund a program that is critical to increasing racial justice in education.
Community schools are a partnership between public schools, community members, and partner organizations to fill unmet local needs that create barriers to students’ learning. Students of color are most likely to face those barriers.
“We don’t want a ZIP code to determine a student’s dreams,” said Stephen Kostyo, a policy advisor at the Learning Policy Institute. “Community schools can help address the needs of students whose housing is insecure or whose nutritional needs aren’t met.”
Community schools around the country partner with affordable housing providers, food banks and local grocers or restaurants to help ward off housing and food insecurity that creates tremendous stress for students and their families.
While each community school is unique, under this model the public school is a hub for the community that combines a rigorous, relevant educational program with extended learning opportunities, family and community engagement, and an infusion of social services.
Do students need better access to medical or mental health care? Do parents need help acquiring stronger language skills or earning a GED? Are the school’s discipline measures doing more harm than good? These are just a few examples of the many issues that community schools can tackle.
“Some community schools are in areas where healthcare is scarce, so partnerships with hospitals or medical schools are created,” said Kyle Serrette, a senior policy analyst in NEA’s Teacher Quality department. “Some might have a dental clinic; another might offer free glasses for kids who can’t afford them.”
Community schools are flexible and responsive to what local families are experiencing. “It’s about grassroots problem solving where partnerships are tailored to the community,” said Serrette.
Educators and other public school advocates can help fight to keep critical education programs funded. Tell your senators to invest more in public schools.