Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Community Schools
The American Federation of Teachers has elected a new President, Randi Weingarten. Earlier this week, she gave her first address and is calling on our nation's schools to take on a larger role. From the AFT press release:
A key aspect of Weingarten’s proposed solution is the expansion of the community school model—schools that serve the neediest children by bringing together all the services and activities they and their families need under one roof.

“Imagine schools that are open all day, and offer after-school and evening recreational activities and homework assistance; high schools that allow students to sign up for morning, afternoon or evening classes. And suppose the schools included child care and dental, medical and other services the community needs.”
I'm sure many schools do something on the way to this already, but this is a pretty broad challenge to make schools into full-service community centers. I imagine something along the lines of what churches do for many people - and did for me when I was younger. Maybe because of that I have mixed feelings about it, though I can't quite put my finger on what bugs me - if anything. Is this a really good idea for serving the community and bringing parents and everyone else to a greater sense of ownership over our community schools? What do you think?

Either way, though, isn't it just pie-in-the-sky rhetoric? Wouldn't we need dramatically larger facilities and greatly increased staff (and once it comes down to it, won't the AFT itself argue for higher teacher salaries over using an increased school budget for, say dental care)? Not only that, around here we have a problem with promoting exclusively community-based schools: segregation. I'm all for an overhaul - could things get much worse? But it's hard seeing enough political will playing out on all sides to make much of anything truly change, let alone something like this happen.

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