The U.S. Department of Education recently released Frequently Asked Questions: Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Support Full-Service Community Schools & Related Strategies. These Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are intended to inform state and local efforts in effectively using American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) funds to support evidence-based, full-service community schools and related approaches.
“When schools are at the center of our neighborhoods and communities, children and families benefit. I hope that the resource we are releasing today will help states and school districts use American Rescue Plan funds to increase access to evidence-based community schools for more students and families across the country,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. “Community schools serve as hubs for vital resources and connect students and families to services that can help them thrive. Importantly, community schools expand learning and enrichment opportunities for both students and parents alike, and promote family and community engagement in education, which ultimately can bolster students’ success. That’s why I’m proud the president’s Build Back Better agenda robustly supports community schools with an additional investment of $443 million in his budget request for education.”
The Department is releasing the FAQs to provide districts and communities with information and considerations for expanding existing full-service community schools and implementing this approach in additional schools. All of the strategies described in the FAQs can be supported by funding under the American Rescue Plan, regardless of whether a school is a full-service community school.
A full-service community school is a public elementary or secondary school that uses established partnerships between schools, families, and community organizations to provide well-rounded educational opportunities and meet the social, emotional, physical, mental health, and academic needs of students.
Full-service community school approaches can leverage community resources to bring needed support for students and families into public schools, such as after-school programs, health and social services, and other comprehensive services. Full-service community schools can be a useful strategy to help ensure that a child’s opportunities are not limited by zip code, family’s income, race/ethnicity, disability status, or other factors. Research shows that evidence-based approaches to community schools can improve student social, emotional, and academic outcomes.
In March, the Department announced the allocation that each state educational agency (SEA) will receive under the ARP ESSER Fund, totaling $122 billion in relief for K-12 schools. One of the important allowable uses of ARP ESSER funds specified in the statute is to support full-service community schools.
The Department currently offers competitive grants for full-service community schools to improve coordination, integration, accessibility, and effectiveness of services for children and families. ARP ESSER funds may be used to replicate, expand, and scale-up these efforts.
In addition, because community schools have built-in services and structures that will help students return to in-person learning, the Department is requesting a significant increase in funding for the program ($443 million) in its fiscal year 2022 budget request in alignment with President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda. Secretary Cardona embarked this week on a cross-country tour to visit schools and community colleges preparing for full reopening this fall, with the assistance of the American Rescue Plan. The Department will continue to provide support and resources to schools and communities as they work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and rebuild our education system back better than it was pre-pandemic.