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Education Department awards $63M to community schools

Mackenzie WilkesJan 20, 2023

This article was originally published in Politico on January 18, 2023.

Over $63 million isheaded to school districts nationwide after the Education Department announced grants for community schools on Wednesday. Additionally, the White House announced a toolkit on federal resources for community schools.

Several states, 42 school districts, school boards, nonprofits and other organizations received five-year Full-Service Community Schools grants. Community schools typically work with local entities such as non-profits and higher education institutions to support classroom families. The awards can be used to facilitate broader partnerships between schools and local groups for services such as mental and physical health, tutoring and nutrition.

The 2023 appropriations bill passed at the end of last year provides $150 million for the program, doubling the funding from fiscal year 2022. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona attended an event at Turner Elementary in Washington, D.C., to highlight the 2022 grant recipients. DCPS received roughly $2.5 million from the Community School Grant program.

"We learned when schools close communities close... what you're doing with intentional collaboration, lifting up the opportunity for our students — is something that we want to replicate," Cardona said at the event. "While we're announcing the [$63] million in the Full-Service Community Schools grant, today, we're also acknowledging the intentional collaboration that you're showing and the benefits that it has on students."

U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) attended the event as well as several D.C. education leaders and advocates, including State Superintendent Christina Grant and DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee.

“We have been talking a lot about the symbiotic relationship between schools and communities, and we know they feed off each other and when one thrives, the other thrives,” Ferebee said. “So this allows us to support our families, our students and the community in which our students and families currently reside in.”

Cardona stressed the importance of connecting students and families to resources as they recover from the pandemic. He added that it’s the culture of community schools that not only helps students thrive but also contributes to recruiting and retaining teachers and staff.

“Creating a culture where people understand that they’re serving students, that they’re valued as employees, and that they’re respected as employees, I think goes a long way,” Cardona told reporters. “I saw that here at Turner. I do have concerns that if we keep doing what we’ve done, we’re going to get what we got.”