Rescue Plan Unlocks Funding for Community Schools

Rescue Plan Unlocks Funding for Community Schools

From José Muñoz , Director, Coalition for Community Schools Interim Director, Institute for Educational Leadership

Last week President Biden signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, which will provide much-needed relief to millions of Americans who have suffered-financially and otherwise- due to the pandemic and lift millions more-including children-out of poverty.


And among the historic $123 billion allocated for K-12 state and local education agencies, “evidence-based full-service Community Schools” is listed as an allowable use of school district spending for mental health services! In addition to this language, the bill mirrors prior relief packages in its flexibility to allow school districts to spend most of its funds on any allowable use, including Full-Service Community Schools, in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and other education bills.


This is a huge victory for community schools advocates and practitioners who know the positive impact that community schools have every day on students, families, and communities and particularly during times of crisis like the pandemic.


We want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone who signed onto our letter to Capitol Hill urging that community schools be included in this and future relief bills and believe this had a direct impact on our success. #Advocacyworks! We also want to thank our Congressional champions Senators Brown (D-OH), Gillibrand (D-NY), and Van Hollen (D-MD) and Reps. Hoyer (D-MD) and Jones (D-NY) for elevating community schools to Congress including the reintroduction of the Full-Service Community Schools Expansion Act last month (S. 385/H.R. 1241).

Learn more about what this bill means for education funding so you can advocate to your state and local education officials for an effective investment of these funds, including through Community Schools.

Thank you again for your advocacy and let us continue our collective work through and beyond the pandemic to ensure all our children receive the support, learning, enrichment, and love they need to thrive.

Pivotal Community Schools Meeting

Pivotal Community Schools Meeting

ForwARd Arkansas and the Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools (ACCS) have long partnered to support the Community School model as a success strategy for schools, students and families across the state. This approach focuses on identifying the needs of and connecting students and families in a specific school to community-based resources and supports that can help remove barriers to learning.

ACCS and ForwARd Arkansas kicked off a new phase of their Community Schools initiative last week when they gathered key stakeholders to discuss how the Community Schools model can be used to support students in both rural schools and schools in cities like Little Rock. Participants included state legislators; representatives from Little Rock Mayor’s Office, Little Rock School District, Rural Community Alliance, Arkansas Education Association, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and Arkansas Department of Education; as well as a wide range of service providers and representatives from Independence County. 

While the specific approach used in each Community School is determined based on specific local needs, all community schools consist of four key pillars that together create the conditions necessary for students to thrive: 

  • Integrated student supports, such as mental and physical health services 
  • Expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities
  • Active family and community engagement
  • Collaborative leadership and a culture of shared responsibility and collective trust

Featured speaker José Muñoz, director of the Coalition for Community Schools, a national organization that serves state community school coalitions, emphasized that these four pillars do not benefit only poor, black and brown children or only students in urban districts. They can support children in need of supports in all schools at all income levels. 

In the days ahead, we will organize meetings in Little Rock to consider how the community schools model could be benefit the district and continue to raise awareness of and identify resources to implement community schools in rural districts throughout the state.  

Community schools have the potential to level the playing field for all Arkansas students and families by providing additional student and family supports to meet the challenges poverty creates in children’s lives beyond the classroom. Our drive to ensure equitable opportunity for all students has heightened the urgency to see this solution implemented widely across Arkansas. 

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

Learn More about the Four Pillars of Community Schools

Our Statement on Community Schools

Our Statement on Community Schools

Well! There is much buzz around the idea of community schools in Central Arkansas. Some may not know much about them, so we will share a very high-level Community Schools 101 here. Then we will share about the work the Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools (ACCS) has been doing since 2017 and by its founders even prior to that initial meeting in March of 2017.

In the context of Little Rock, it’s important to understand that a Community School is not a governance model. It is a student support model that is structured to provide schools, students and their families access to services and resources that will help students to maximize their educational opportunities. This is tailored to each school’s individual student and family needs. These wrap-around services could include after-school care, pre-K for families, health services, mental health, food, clothing, tutoring and student engagement programs such as robotics or a family yoga night.

Community schools are typically managed by a school liaison or staff person, who is often titled community school coordinator. This person is the link between school leadership and teachers, students and families. The coordinator must seek authentic voices as input about the needs to be met. They must structure the partnerships and resulting agreements with organizations and agencies who may operate on or off campus. They must assess and provide for school-wide needs and those of individual students and families. They will meet with providers and families in need of support. They will also be responsible for evaluating those programs and services to determine their effectiveness and efficiency. The Governor referred to them as wrap-around services in a written response to John Brummet shared on Facebook. The Governor said, “The preliminary results tell me that additional wrap-around services do make a difference in the schools.…”

Community schools are not community stakeholders serving as a school’s governing body. Community stakeholders should be partners with the school governance model, usually a school board. They should have meaningful input into the structure and design of community school programming, but community stakeholders don’t operate the school itself in lieu of its official governing board.

ACCS began originally as a partnership between Community Resource Innovations and the Rural Community Alliance. The Coalition invited a network of stakeholders to the table to look for ways to expand community schools in Arkansas. There are a few models of schools with extensive services already in Arkansas. Springdale and Southside (Van Buren County) are just two examples. Neither of these have the full Community School model with a coordinator, but they have focused and effective efforts for meeting student and family service needs.

ACCS partners included state agency representatives, educational professional associations, and a host of nonprofit organizations. Also, a few district representatives participate when possible. Early on the group received support from its founders and was quickly joined by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and ForwARd Arkansas. ACCS heard from national community school professionals. The founders toured and studied several community schools in other states. We went to conferences and we learned. ACCS developed two videos, a website, and a Facebook page to get the word out. There is a corresponding national organization, the Coalition for Community Schools. ACCS participates in two of its national networks: one for State Coalition leaders, and we are new to the Community School Research Network.

ForwARd became more deeply engaged as a result of learnings from its work in five ForwARd communities. ForwARd funded staff travel to a national conference and a subsequent national meeting of state coalition partners. ForwARd has also worked with communities to seek Community School funding.

In the most recent legislative session ForwARd staff, who serve as ACCS facilitators, drafted a resolution near the end of the session. It was run in a bipartisan effort as a Senate Resolution (SR25), sponsored by Sen. Joyce Elliott and Sen. Jim Hendren. As follow-up to that work, Sen. Elliott was one of the first to raise the call for community schools in Little Rock’s “F” schools as one means to better support the student and family stakeholders in those schools. ACCS applauds that direction.

ACCS and ForwARd Arkansas are deeply interested in ensuring that Arkansas’s rural schools are not left out. It will be important to continue to work together to find opportunities in urban and rural environments. To that end ACCS invited the national Director of the Coalition for Community Schools, José Muñoz, to Little Rock. Because of all the ground-work that has been laid by our partners and ForwARd staff, Muñoz is coming. The timing is perfect.

Thank you to all the ACCS members for your valuable time and insights, Rural Community Alliance for believing in community schools and leading, ForwARd Arkansas for staff time and funding support, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) for sharing space with us, the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation for initial meeting funds, Community Resource Innovations for funding and organizational efforts, Sen. Elliott and Sen. Hendren for leading with the resolution and to AACF and the Association of Educational Administrators for joining in support of the resolution. Thanks to Gerard Matthews and Brad Cameron who have provided discounted video and web services for us. So many individuals, not named here, have supported and assisted with this work because they seek the best for all our students. New support is coming from all directions.

That best is yet to come. Watch our Facebook page and website. Stay tuned.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

2019 National Coalition Meeting Update

2019 National Coalition Meeting Update

The 2019 State Coalition Meeting took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, bringing an array of Community School Coalitions representing each region of the US. Coalition for Community Schools Director José Muñoz mentioned during our sessions the Coalition’s goal to establish 25,000 Community Schools in the United States by 2025. There were, Muñoz explained, currently 5,000 to 7,000 Community Schools nationwide—Michigan had roughly 146.

In terms of expanding Community School efforts, an idea emerged in the form of leveraging the expertise of graduate students on research projects to further showcase the significance of community schools to the education process. One of the key takeaways from the sessions was the necessity to work with Civil Rights organizations (e.g., National Urban League and NAACP) to ensure we have a collective voice on the advancement of education quality and equity among students, particularly in rural communities.

One of the key mechanisms discussed among all state coalitions was the necessity of communication through social media. Understanding the impact social media plays in the 21st Century in terms of getting one’s message broadcast to either a targeted or inclusive audience for base-building is essential. Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools began these efforts in 2018 with the creation of our website and Facebook page. Social media algorithms provide opportunities for entities to boost their presence to reach individuals. It also gives statistics on which posts receive the most interaction, the time of day most people view your page, and so forth.

Another highlight was the need to have specific action steps to shift legislation. Having concrete policy recommendations aids in narrowing the focus of Coalition members as they prepare to advocate on the importance of Community Schools and the impact they provide to communities. The essential items to consider are to cultivate educational quality, celebrate victories, and catalyze stronger community. The corresponding questions for each item were: What can you do? And what do you need? This is a profound opportunity to positively impact 21st Century students with tools to create empowered, analytical, and innovative communities for growth.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.

Taking “Extra” out of “Extra-Curricular”

Taking “Extra” out of “Extra-Curricular”

This blog post by Sarah McBroom was originally published April 3, 2019, by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation (WRF). We are grateful to WRF for allowing us to share its content, and we encourage you to click here to see the organization’s original content and learn more.

Click here to read “Community Schools: Support Outside the Classroom” from ForwARd Arkansas to find out how Community Schools effectively support rural students and families.

What if your kid could go to school, the dentist, and tee-ball practice while you went to yoga and got help with your taxes . . . all in one day, in one building?


ForwARd Arkansas and the Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools have taken action to develop a unique, regional Community Schools model to provide critical support for small rural districts. The result? Last month, the Arkansas Senate adopted a resolution to recognize Community Schools as a strong model to improve achievement and strengthen family and community engagement.

Community schools offer expanded learning and enrichment time with before-school, after-school, weekend, and summer programs for students and their families. Community Schools are a “one-stop shop” children and parents can count on for tutoring, music education, art opportunities, yoga classes, computer courses, adult literacy, GRE preparation . . . you name it, Community Schools do it.

The Community Schools model makes the schoolhouse a hub and a cornerstone for building a more vibrant place to live. Community Schools provide medical, dental, and vision care for students as well as mental health services, housing support, transportation, nutrition education, and immigrant-integration resources for youth and families.


We know that student success requires support beyond the classroom.

  • Research shows Community Schools improve academic achievement, reduce racial and economic achievement gaps, and increase daily school attendance as well as high school graduation rates.

  • Research also shows Community Schools provide a strong return on investment—up to $15 for every dollar invested.

  • Federal funding can be used to support Community Schools, and research shows this model meets the standard for “evidence-based approaches” to support schools identified for comprehensive and targeted support and intervention under the Every Student Succeeds Act.


All children need access to an excellent education in order to create a more equitable Arkansas. This will require innovative solutions that meet the unique needs of students and their families, especially in rural communities.

Click here to read “Community Schools: Support Outside the Classroom” from ForwARd Arkansas to find out how Community Schools effectively support rural students and families.

As program associate at the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, Sarah McBroom is responsible for providing management and administrative support to implement the Foundation’s education and community change strategies. She conducts research, analyzes data relevant to assessing progress toward Foundation goals, and coordinates program-related activities.

The Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools and ForwARd Arkansas have joined together in partnership to support the development, and implementation of Community Schools in Arkansas.