Nonprofits, businesses, and law enforcement work with public school to assess the community’s challenges
AUGUSTA – A measure to help Maine’s education system meet the needs of all learners, from early childhood into adulthood, and prepares Maine students for college, careers, and civic life received strong support during a public hearing in the state’s Education and Cultural Affairs Committee.
The measure, LD 956, “An Act To Create Community Schools,” would allow, per the authority of a local school board, an existing or new school to be a “community school.” The bill also authorizes the Department of Education to provide funding, including funds allocated for a 5-year pilot project beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, to support the implementation of community schools.
“Every community school looks slightly different, as it is developed through mutually beneficial partnerships that are unique to that community. They are built on the community’s strengths, and these community assets are strategically targeted,” said Democratic State Senator Rebecca Millett of Cape Elizabeth, the sponsor of the measure. “The result is teachers and principals are empowered to focus on helping our children learn and achieve high standards with partners at their side helping to address the children’s other needs in an effective and efficient manner.”
With the community school model, local public schools, nonprofit organizations, businesses, and law enforcement come together to assess the community’s challenges and resources and, based on that analysis, provide a broad range of programs and services for the students and their families.
Senator Millett added, “Many children face challenges in and outside the classroom. Community schools surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.”
The community school model has three distinct attributes:
Programs and services that remove barriers and offer enhanced opportunities to boost academic achievement through educational, social, and emotional supports.
Comprehensive support of the wellness and health of children and their families through medical support, counseling services, and youth development programs.
Parental and community engagement including an active role in decision-making.
“With the passage of LD 956, we have the opportunity to help communities come together, grow stronger and create an environment where more of our children can thrive, succeed academically, develop aspirations, pursue higher attainment and become productive members of our society,” said Senator Millett who also serves on the state’s education committee.
According to a 2013 analysis from the Coalition for Community Schools, community school students graduate high school and continue learning at higher rates. In Cincinnati, since the implementation of Community Learning Centers in 2000, high school graduation rates have rates have increased from 51% to over 80%. Other improvement benchmarks seen with students at community schools include, better work habits and attitudes toward learning, and improved grades and test scores.
Examples of local initiatives and national models include: Schools Uniting Neighborhood (SUN) Community Schools in Multnomah County, Oregon; United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley’s Community Partners for Student Success Initiative (COMPASS); Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative (TASCI); Communities in Schools (200 local affiliates in 27 states reaching over 2 million young people); Full Service Community Schools in Boston, MA; Kent School Services Network (KSSN) in Kent County MI.
During the public hearing, Senator Millett offered an amendment to her bill that removes the requirement for annual school board and commissioner reports.
Students, educators, the Maine Education Association, Maine Department of Education, the United Way of Greater Portland, Maine School Management, the Maine Sheriff’s Association, the Maine Children’s Alliance, York County Community Action, and the Maine Chamber, among others testified in support of the measure.
The Education and Cultural Affairs Committee will hold a work session on the measure in the coming weeks.