International

Blair, Duncan Push Schools as Community Hubs

By Michele McNeil — October 28, 2009 3 min read
BRIC ARCHIVE

The campaign to turn more schools into community hubs got an injection of star power last week from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who headlined an event on the topic sponsored by the Center for American Progress.

The occasion was the release of a new report by the Washington-based think tank pointing to England as a model for the nationwide spread of community schools, which offer a venue for both academics and social services.

By next year, all of England’s 23,000 public schools will become “extended schools” open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the year—a key education priority of Mr. Blair’s administration, which aimed both to make schools a place of learning and to give them a central role in the community.

The schools in England offer day care, after-school activities, social services such as health care, and central spots for communities to gather.

“The school should become the center for the support and nurture of the future generation, and a hub for the whole community,” said Mr. Blair, who served as prime minister from 1997 to 2007 and is currently a visiting professor at Yale University.

The report by the Center for American Progress says that community schools are not just another program, but a way of changing the “school’s role in the lives of students, families, and the surrounding community.”

Specifically, community schools usually have extended hours before and after school, and during the weekends and summer; social services, including health care and parent education; activities to engage parents and the community; and a partnership with at least one other community organization or public entity, such as a university.

The report names the Chicago public school system, Achievement Plus Schools in St. Paul, Minn., and the Children’s Aid Society’s community schools in New York City as successful models.

Chicago’s Example

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, during his tenure as the chief executive officer of the Chicago district, partnered with private funders to launch 21 community schools in that city in 2001.

“Why do we continue to build Boys and Girls Clubs and YMCAs? Let’s get out of the bricks-and-mortar business,” Mr. Duncan said at the Oct. 28 event. Such community groups can, instead, be housed inside schools, he said.

Mr. Duncan and Roberto J. Rodriguez, a White House education adviser, who also appeared at the event, both said the notion of community schools is central to the Obama administration’s aim of providing what Mr. Rodriguez described as a “complete and competitive education.”

Whether the community schools movement takes off in the United States as it did in England remains to be seen. The new report says that increased federal funding is a key part of expanding the number of such schools.

Several funding opportunities are in the works. Mr. Rodriguez, who serves on the White House Domestic Policy Council as a special assistant on education, said that President Obama has proposed $10 million in the federal fiscal 2010 budget for planning grants for “Promise Neighborhoods” programs, similar to the Harlem Children’s Zone. That broad-based program aims to meet the educational, health, and social service needs of residents in a 97-block area of New York City. (“President Envisions Anti-Poverty Efforts Like Harlem’s ‘Zone’,” March 11, 2009.)

That $10 million proposal, however, pales in comparison with other administration initiatives, such as the $420 million increase the president has proposed for the Teacher Incentive Fund, a grant program for districts to create merit-pay programs for teachers.

But community schools also have powerful allies in Congress. Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who is the House majority leader, has proposed legislation with Sen. Ben Nelson, a Nebraska Democrat, to establish a five-year, $200 million grant program to encourage the growth of community schools.

Rep. Hoyer, who spoke at the Center for American Progress event, argued that not spending the money now would cost the country more later.

“Investing in community schools will be far cheaper than investing in the failures of our students,” he said.

A version of this article appeared in the November 04, 2009 edition of Education Week as Blair, Duncan Press School-Community Link

Events

Jobs The EdWeek Top School Jobs Virtual Career Fair
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Safe Return to Schools is Possible with Testing
We are edging closer to a nationwide return to in-person learning in the fall. However, vaccinations alone will not get us through this. Young children not being able to vaccinate, the spread of new and
Content provided by BD
Equity & Diversity Live Online Discussion What Is Critical Race Theory and Why You Shouldn't Shy Away From It
In this episode of A Seat at the Table, Peter DeWitt sits down with lawyer-educator Janel George and EdWeek reporters, Stephen Sawchuk and Andrew Ujifusa, as they discuss what’s at the heart of the critical

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

International Global Test Finds Digital Divide Reflected in Math, Science Scores
New data from the 2019 Trends in International Math and Science Study show teachers and students lack digital access and support.
3 min read
Image of data.
iStock/Getty
International Pre-COVID Learning Inequities Were Already Large Around the World
A new international benchmarking highlights gaps in training for digital learning and other supports that could deepen the challenge for low-income schools during the pandemic.
4 min read
International Part of Global Trend, 1 in 3 U.S. High Schoolers Felt Disconnected From School Before Pandemic
UNESCO's annual report on global education progress finds countries need to make more effort to include marginalized students, particularly in the United States.
4 min read
International How Schools in Other Countries Have Reopened
Ideas from Australia, Denmark, and Taiwan can help American district and school leaders as they shape their reopening plans.
11 min read
Students at the Taipei American School in Taipei, Taiwan, perform The Little Mermaid in full costume and masks.
Students at the Taipei American School in Taipei, Taiwan, perform The Little Mermaid in full costume and masks.
Photo courtesy of Dustin Rhoades/Taipei American School