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Weingarten: Stimulus money should fund community schools

The special pot of federal stimulus dollars for schools known as the “Race to the Top” money should go toward extra services outside of education, like health clinics, child care, and immigration advice, teachers union president Randi Weingarten suggests in her latest paid New York Times column (PDF).

The idea is to infuse the federal stimulus effort with Weingarten’s favored “community schools” concept, in which schools function not just to teach children but also as service centers for the wider neighborhood around them. Weingarten calls the idea “a model for the best use of mayoral control.”

She also discloses that she has asked Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein to join the United Federation of Teachers in supporting the “broader, bolder mission” of what she is calling Active Communities Enabling Success, or ACES.

From the column:

The network of schools, open evenings and weekends, would be a locus for health and mental health services, either through the co-location of clinics, mobile clinics or partnerships with local providers and hospitals. After-school tutoring and enrichment programs would be closely aligned with the instructional day, but the schools would also include opportunities for exercise, sports, arts and culture, and community service. For families and members of the community, childcare, pre-school, ESL, GED and vocational classes would be available. Finally, referrals could be made for housing issues, employment opportunities, immigration issues and legal problems. …

And for those who say this approach tries to do everything but teach, that is far from the truth. There is no conflict between emphasizing academics and tending to children’s broader needs. For our most disadvantaged kids, our schools can and must do both.

The proposal is consistent with what Weingarten told me the day after the stimulus bill was announced in February. It’s also a part of broader efforts to tie better social services to mayoral control: A representative of one of the city’s oldest social service agencies told me she thought improved social services are the promise of mayoral control.

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