Imagine a school that not only educates a child, but also provides vision screening, dental care, nutritional programs and more. Imagine a place with parent involvement and extra educational time.
That’s Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s vision in creating community schools statewide. Districts on Long Island, particularly in low-income areas, will use state funds to add community programming to existing schools, combining education with necessary services. The theory is simple: Struggling students need more than good teachers, new laptops and high standards. Schools and their communities must take a holistic view to address underlying issues, from hunger and poverty to family involvement and medical care, all inside a school setting.
In other words: By giving a student a winter coat, she might be more likely to go to school on a frigid day. By providing a student with a free pair of glasses, he might more easily learn to read or write.
New York City took the lead, transforming 130 schools into community schools last year. Now, the state budget provides Long Island with $8.8 million for 11 districts to start community school programming. Hempstead gets $3.1 million and Brentwood gets $2.1 million, while Central Islip, William Floyd, Freeport, Westbury, Wyandanch, Uniondale, Roosevelt, Copiague and Amityville are recipients, too. Districts with struggling schools will receive extra money beyond that.
But this year’s funds won’t go far enough. Perhaps districts will share programs and personnel. But if there are promising early results, the state must contribute more. Community schools must include parent and community engagement, a willing staff, and leaders who bring everyone together. State and local officials must track progress and make the process and results public. Our children’s future is at stake. — The editorial board