The need for more state funding to help sustain community schools programs was emphasized to legislators by representatives of the local Connected Community Schools (CCS) initiative, as part of recent “advocacy days” in relation to the state budget.
Melissa Roys, executive director of the Community Alliance spearheading CCS, said she and Rome Teachers Association President Robert Wood presented to several legislators alongside New York State United Teachers officials during NYSUT’s Community Schools Advocacy Day.
“We presented many of the highlights of the Connected Schools as well as the struggles of sustainability,” Roys said Wednesday regarding the Feb. 5 session.
“The issue of community schools money continuing and growing is, it is necessary for the sustainability for our programs,” Roys said. “The investment into a community school is proven effective for all students, families and school staff,” she said, adding that “the return on investment for the Connected model...was exceeding $14-plus to every dollar invested.”
The local initiative started in the Rome district about four years ago, and later announced expansions to some other school districts including Dolgeville, Waterville and Town of Webb.
It has involved various services to help meet student and family needs, including schools acting as “hubs” providing on-site links for various local agencies to assist students and families.
Grants and monetary donations along with state funding have assisted the program.
“The infrastructure of a community school provides a platform in which the entire community, stakeholders, businesses, organizations, resources and services can in turn be invested in the growth and success of our schools and the students within them,” Roys observed.
“To have continued support from New York state is crucial to continuing the development of community schools,” the Connected Community Schools executive director said.
During the COVID-19 situation, Roys added, “we witnessed how beneficial it was to already have partnerships existing to meet the ever-growing needs of our families, children as well as our community as a whole.”
In mid-December the CCS food pantry program reached one million pounds in free food distributions for the community in a program launched last March in response to the pandemic.
An additional Community Schools Advocacy Day this week regarding state budget funding was noted by the New York State Network for Youth Success. Among several statewide funding categories sought, as cited by the organization in an announcement Tuesday:
To protect community schools, baseline funding of $250 million must be preserved, and the minimum amount of funding a school district receives must be set at $100,000;
To expand quality community schools, $100 million in new funding must be invested through Community Schools Categorical Aid;
To enhance community schools’ Technical Assistance Centers, $1.85 million annually must be appropriated through June 30, 2023 to expand coordination and support for implementing the community schools strategy.