On Friday, November 17, a panel of speakers testified at the Illinois State Board of Education Budget (ISBE) Hearing in Chicago on behalf of the Federation of Community Schools to ask that ISBE include a $15 million Community School program line in its FY19 budget. The panel included Patrick Brosnan from the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Jill Edelblute from the YMCA, and Rich Morris, principal of Burroughs Elementary School in Chicago. East Side Aligned – an organization that doesn’t provide community schools yet but whose work aligns with community schools – also testified in support of fully funding the Community Schools Grant program at the ISBE hearing in Mt. Vernon on November 8. Funding the community schools line item will allow places like East St. Louis to fully implement community schools.

The Community Schools grant program was established in 2009 by law, but has never been funded. Those speaking at the hearing also asked ISBE to take additional action to support community school work by allowing schools and community partners to apply for 21st Century Community Learning Center (CCLC) grants . Although the 21st CCLC grants account for the largest amount of afterschool funding in the state and the majority of community schools rely on these grants as a primary source of funding, the state has not run a 21st CCLC grant competition in more than three years.

By bringing together public schools, non-profit organizations and local businesses, community schools provide a broad range of programs and services to students and their families in support of comprehensive child development. Through this approach, community schools become the center of their communities and create an environment where students and their families can reach their full potential. Without a state investment in supporting community schools, districts and community partners face challenges in forming cohesive, sustained collaborations.

In Illinois, there are more than 225 community schools working together with school districts, local businesses and community partners to help students be successful. By creating a $15 million community school funding line in its FY19 budget and opening up 21st CCLC grants, ISBE can provide the support needed to sustain this effort and expand the network of community schools to help even more children and families.