Student Engagement: An Interview with Coalition for Community Schools


  • Brandis Stockman
July 7, 2023 - (3 min read)

In the wake of the pandemic, concerning data related to chronic absenteeism, academic achievement, and youth mental health is an ongoing cause for concern. NLC worked in partnership with the Coalition for Community Schools and the Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL) to produce a tool for city leaders to learn about the benefits of implementing and supporting Full Service Community Schools in their cities.

Full-Service Community Schools are a local engagement strategy that promote the coordination of resources through a school-based Community School Coordinator. Community Schools are instrumental in breaking down barriers to learning, addressing social disparities, and creating a supportive environment where students and families can thrive.

José Muñoz, Senior Director of Coalition for Community Schools & Institute for Educational Leadership, recently shared his thoughts on how city leaders can support Community Schools.

How can Full-Service Community Schools address some of the issues that have arisen for students and families as a result of the pandemic?

The issues students and their families face are a lack of access to essential supports necessary to survive, but also opportunities that lead to greater self-sufficiency and prosperity. Community Schools create access to these supports and opportunities by making them readily available on the school site. Whether it’s quality afterschool programs for children, workforce development for parents, or health services for the whole family, Community Schools build the bridges that make it all work.

Thomas Jefferson said, “A well-informed electorate is a prerequisite to democracy”. Schools have the most communication power of any agency or institution in our society. Community Schools harness this power to create life change for whole populations.

What funding is available to support Community Schools?

The most sustainable funding is in the responsible hands of city, county, school district, and local business leaders. Studies have shown that for every dollar invested in a Community School Coordinator results in a projected $7.11 return – by leveraging existing resources to support students and families, Community School Coordinators bring incredible value to the community.

Additionally, the United States Department of Education has released a request for proposals for the Full-Service Community Schools grant program. 42 awardees will receive 5 years of catalytic funding to start or expand Community Schools. The Coalition for Community Schools is providing application assistance through a series of webinars, offered through July 20, 2023.

Ultimately, we’d like to see states allocating dollars in their funding formula for schools with the highest concentrations of students living in poverty to become a Community School; it’s a “Hunger Games” mentality to have the schools already facing the highest amounts of poverty to compete against each other for more limited funding opportunities.

How could a city leader approach a school district about bringing Community Schools to their city?

City leaders are able to provide many of the supports families need, right many injustices families face, and open opportunities for families to thrive. This creates the conditions young people need to live and learn in safe, healthy, and stable environments. Students and their families are citizens of the cities in which they live – city leaders have a vested interest in and responsibility for their citizens, and often a wealth of resources at their disposal. IEL Senior Vice President of Strategy, Research, and Policy Dr. Helen Malone recently worked with NLC to create a toolkit for city leaders wanting to support Community Schools, even when funding isn’t an option.

To view additional resources for city leaders related to student reengagement including checklists and case studies, refer to NLC’s initiative page.

About the Author

Brandis Stockman

About the Author

Brandis Stockman is the Program Manager Education and Expanded Learning for the Center for Leadership, Education, Advancement & Development at the National League of Cities.