As a constituent who cares deeply about public education, I support the expansion and continued investment in community schools. Community schools are locally created with input from educational stakeholders and the community to provide academic, social-emotional, health care, wellness and social services to those students who need it most, and in their neighborhoods, so families can easily access the services they need. This model is proven to increase student achievement, narrow the achievement gap and build stronger families and healthier communities.
At the heart of this model is a community school director, who is charged with developing, creating and administering the program and its services. The director develops partnerships with community-based organizations, health care providers and others to meet the various needs of the school community. For every $1 invested in establishing a community school and hiring a director, the national average of return on investment is $7.
While the 2023-24 executive budget proposal continues to provide $250 million in community school funding as a set aside through Foundation Aid, no new funding is included outside of Foundation Aid to expand these schools throughout our state. Since the community school set-aside redirects Foundation Aid, those funds can be used for a variety of purposes and is not dedicated solely to the expansion of community schools.
A categorical grant program for community schools would provide a dedicated funding source for the sole purpose of expanding community schools. The state should provide $100 million in new categorical aid funding to expand the number of community schools, ensure that more communities have access to these services and enable these schools to hire a director who can provide real solutions to the unique problems facing students and their families.
I also urge you to modify the executive budget proposal that would provide $1.2 million for services and expenses for three community school regional technical assistance centers to include $5 million for the United Community Schools, a union-led model, to share their expertise and expand their model statewide.
Community schools provide a lifeline for students and families and often provide the services these families need but are unable to afford or access in their neighborhoods. I hope I can count on your support to properly fund and expand the community school model and address the various needs impacting our students.
Thank you for your consideration of these very important issues. I respectfully ask that you bring up these issues with your conference and I would greatly appreciate a response to this letter.