The New York State Afterschool Network (NYSAN) applauds Governor Andrew Cuomo for proposing, and now launching, an ambitious new NYS Community Schools initiative. Community schools seek to leverage existing public investments in school buildings and the existing work of community-based organizations, teachers, and principals to transform schools into coordinated hubs of social and educational resources focused on doing whatever it takes to improve student and family outcomes. This new initiative will provide the first dedicated public funding stream in New York for this proven method of engaging the whole community in the success of our children, and NYSAN is also grateful to the Legislature for its crucial support of that funding.
By coordinating investments through the NYS Community Schools initiative, New York State will be investing for the long-term, recognizing that closing the achievement gap and increasing graduation rates will require engaging families and students early and often around the range of needs that could otherwise be barriers to success. NYSAN also applauds the related Executive Order, which will ensure that New York State’s wide range of targeted funding streams are more easily accessible to new community schools. Giving priority to NYS Community Schools when state agencies are allocating related funds will increase the impact of each of the State’s investments, ensuring that they are coordinated and aligned with the State’s commitment to improving the college and career readiness of New York’s students.
Expanded learning opportunities (ELOs), such as afterschool, before school, weekend, and summer programs, are an important part of many successful community schools models. Such programs reinforce learning through related, but not duplicative, enrichment programs and through supports for students’ development of their social and emotional skills. ELOs provide time for students to access clinics and resources beyond traditional school hours and for parents to connect with supportive staff beyond traditional work hours. By fully engaging community organizations as partners, community schools develop deeper relationships with their students, families, and neighbors, and reap the benefits of the different connections and different perspectives community partners bring to their work. We urge state agencies to think creatively as they implement the Executive Order in order to support NYS Community Schools and their partners in effectively serving students both during and beyond the traditional school day and year and to ensure that sufficient resources are available to meet student and family needs.
Governor Cuomo has consistently recognized that helping our students achieve more is going to require not just more time and more services, but also better services that are better coordinated to better use students and families’ time. We hope that all state agencies will see the NYS Community Schools initiative and the related Executive Order as an opportunity to address current barriers to efficiently blending and coordinating funding streams. The Governor’s coordinated approach will assist NYS Community Schools and their partner organizations in effectively addressing families’ multiple challenges and helping their children grow into thriving, educated, and employed adults. We expect that the lessons learned through the NYS Community Schools initiative will inform the state’s ongoing commitment to improving educational opportunity and streamlining state services for the benefit of all New York’s children.