The new head of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten proposed a “new vision” in a speech at the union’s convention in Chicago: Schools would provide a full range of social and recreational services, in addition to education.
â€œCan you imagine a federal law that promoted community schools â€” schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together under one roof all the services and activities they and their families need?â€ Ms. Weingarten asked in the speech.
â€œImagine schools that are open all day and offer after-school and evening recreational activities and homework assistance,â€ she said. â€œAnd suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and counseling clinics.â€
No Child Left Behind is â€œtoo badly broken to be fixed,â€ she said.
I remember hearing about community schools 25 years ago. Many schools added after-school recreation and/or child-care programs; some hired community workers to help parents deal with problems that might affect their children’s schooling or offered evening classes for parents. All that has continued. A few provided space for social workers or health clinics. It proved difficult to coordinate multiple public agencies and the “community school” idea lost favor after awhile.
Update: Core Knowledge’s Robert Pondiscio taught at a school that tried to provide a range of social services.
Too often in my South Bronx elementary school it felt as if education were an afterthought, and that we functioned as the social services agency of last resort. The resources required for all schools to function as community centers are daunting, to understate the case.