Legislation supporting the work of transformational community schools unanimously passed both chambers of the Tennessee Legislature and is headed to the governor’s desk for signature.
Sponsored by Rep. Kirk Haston (R-Lobelville) and Sen. Steven Dickerson (R-Nashville), HB1330/SB1058 highlights the positive impact community schools have on student achievement and instructs the Tennessee Department of Education to provide technical assistance and “encourage LEAs and schools to combine multiple funding sources to create community schools and to support the schools.”
“TEA supports community schools because they have demonstrated tremendous success in Tennessee and research proves their effectiveness,” said TEA President Beth Brown. “Each community school plan is tailored to meet the unique needs of that student body and the broader community, and since parent and community support are one of the vital pillars of a successful community school, parents have direct input into the creation of a successful academic experience for their children.”
The bill strengthens the Community Schools Act passed by Rep. Gloria Johnson (D-Knoxville) in 2014. That law instructs local education agencies (LEAs) and schools to form community consortia with a variety of community partners and asks the Tennessee Comptroller's Office of Research and Education Accountability (OREA) to survey community schools in Tennessee to see if they are contributing to meeting educational goals of the LEA. This new law amends the Community School Act to strengthen the work based on that 2018 survey.
A concept that’s been supported by TEA through several legislative sessions, the bill also requests that the department assist LEAs in locating other available funding sources to community schools such as competitive grants, foundation awards and private donations.
TEA Executive Director Carolyn Crowder said TEA is proud to champion community schools in Tennessee and looks forward to supporting efforts to expand the reach of these schools in communities across the state.
To help build on those efforts, the new law directly addresses two main conclusions in the OREA survey – that Tennessee has about 100 community school-like efforts statewide that meet all or some of the criteria outlined in the Community Schools Act definition of a community school. Yet there is no common framework and there is not an organization tasked with developing best-practices guidance.
"What we are most excited about is that the bill instructs the Tennessee Department of Education to work with at least one statewide coalition composed of practitioners, administrators, advocates, and other stakeholders to identify opportunities for the department to support community schools,” said Lyn Hoyt, a Nashville parent and coordinator at the Tennessee Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. “This state-wide coalition was established at the Coalition for Community Schools national conference. The Tennessee Education Association was present at this national conference, is a coalition member and championed this bill at the Capitol. We could not have done this without TEA. The strengthening of community schools work in the state of Tennessee has taken a giant leap forward."