Community Schools Financing Guide

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Partnering at the local level to support student success makes good sense, and it is not a new idea. What’s not so obvious is how to make these partnerships truly effective and then, how to pay for them.

This brief describes how community school efforts are financed—primarily, how local
government agencies partner to align existing resources. Aligning resources often means
redeploying them, which are not small or easy decisions to make. In order to make significant
decisions, partnerships need to have formal governance structures in place and an infrastructure to support the decision-making work. This brief does not simply list potential funding streams, but instead starts with the key to financing—the nature of the partnerships and the governance structures behind these efforts. The brief outlines common characteristics of successful and sustained community school initiatives, and profiles five efforts to illustrate the critical role of coordination and intentional collaboration between partners.

The examples—see the Community Profiles section—provide insight into the depth of partnerships required for such efforts and an overview of the types of funding streams that can be used to make such collaborations possible. While not a technical “how-to” guide, this brief provides evidence and ideas from successful efforts that school districts, counties, cities, non-profit organizations, and other public entities can use to begin exploring how to form community school partnerships that support student success.

Many communities are seeking highly competitive grants, such as the Full Service Community
Schools or Promise Neighborhoods grants, to get their efforts started. While startup money may be helpful or necessary, we hope this paper provides communities with ideas about how to begin partnering and aligning resources, even in the absence of a special grant or seed funding. Readers should note that many community school efforts have been launched in response to severe budget situations.

Ezra Denney