New York

New coalition lobbies for schools as community centers

When Randi Weingarten was elected president of the American Federation of Teachers, the country's largest teachers union, back in July, she proposed creating "school-based community centers" to serve needy students and their families. Now, she's behind a coalition to promote her vision. The Community Agenda for America's Public Schools calls for strong partnerships between schools and communities as a strategy to "close the opportunity gap" by increasing the quality and diversity of services that schools offer. Backers say their goal is to outline an agenda that is politically and practically feasible, rather than purely ideologically driven, in contrast with two other coalitions currently dominating debate in education circles: the "no excuses," accountability-based Education Equality Project and the Broader, Bolder Approach to Education, which holds that schools alone cannot close the achievement gap. The group seeks a broad range of outcomes for children, from academic success to physical and emotional health, arguing: Every institution that influences positive outcomes for children and youth must be part of the agenda — schools, families, government, youth development organizations, health, mental health and family support agencies, higher education and faith-based institutions, community organizing and community development groups, unions, and business. Weingarten joined a handful of other education leaders in Washington, D.C., this morning for the campaign's inaugural press conference. The Community Agenda has already been endorsed by dozens of national education and community organizations, as well as by a number of local school districts, including those in Baltimore, Chicago, and Portland, Ore. The New York City Schools are not on the list of endorsers. The Community Agenda for America's Public Schools is administered by the Coalition for Community Schools. A full list of the agenda's policy recommendations is after the jump.