Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Community schools pilot program approved by State House

Community Schools Pilot Program Approved by House

OKLAHOMA CITY – A bill that would institute a pilot program for the community school concept advanced from the House on Monday. House Bill 3374 is authored by Rep. Tammy West, R-Oklahoma City.

Community Schools make use of up to $100,000 per school district of federal funds to allow schools to hire a resource coordinator who becomes familiar with individual student and family needs and pulls together resources available in the local community help meet those needs.

"Students in different schools have very different needs," West said. "These can range from needing extra reading support, to after- and before-school programs, mental health services and more. The community school concept allows us to use federal funds to put these resources into the hands of our students and families to improve their lives."

West, who is a parent of three children educated in public schools and who previously served on the Putnam City School Board, said the community schools concept prioritizes local control by connecting parents and students with local community partners. It encourages efficiency by combining existing school resources with community resources rather than duplicating services. All of this is done with no added costs to school districts. Instead, schools would use federal funds made available through grants.

HB3374 would authorize the State Board of Education to help local school boards create pilot projects to align such resources to ensure students' needs are met. The measure also directs the board to award federal grants so districts could employ a resource coordinator. Statute is necessary to draw down the federal funds for the program.

The legislation specifies that schools would complete a comprehensive student needs assessment involving stakeholders to see what students, families and the schools actually need. Schools also would involve site-based collaborative leadership and include an ongoing stakeholder engagement process.

An amendment to the bill directs that the resource coordinator will complete Hope Leadership training, which is part of First Lady Sarah Stitt’s Hope Rising Initiative proposed during Gov. Stitt's State of the State address this year. West said Sarah Stitt has shown support for this initiative and has tentatively offered resources from her Hope Foundation to help it succeed.

Community schools are based on six principals:

  • Strengthened curriculum and academic programs that are culturally relevant and engaging;
  • An emphasis on high-quality teaching;
  • A shared leadership philosophy;
  • Positive behavior practices, such as restorative practices;
  • Transformational family, student and community engagement; and
  • Coordinated and integrated wrap-around supports, such as health care, eye care and social and emotional services.

West said HB3374 is one of the most important bills she's run as it has the potential to improve student academic outcomes and truly make a difference in the lives of young people and their families.

"Getting the right resources in place means we have a much better shot at ensuring students are fully taken care of during their school years and prepared for success after graduation," West said. "These grants should help us increase parental involvement, which in turn will lead to improved school attendance, higher graduation rates and lower college remediation rates."

She said some schools already have a similar model in place paid for by private donations and school foundations, but other districts can't afford to hire a resource coordinator. HB3374 will help students, families and educators in those districts.  

HB3374 now moves to the State Senate where it is authored by Sen. Dewayne Pemberton, R-Muskogee, vice-chair of the Senate's Education Committee.


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