Community Schools Movement Gains Momentum

Community Schools Movement Gains Momentum

Thursday, September 18, 2008



Community Schools Movement Gains Momentum


Vote Suppression Watch


Research Roundup

PSN Resources

New Resources from PSN

EVENT: conference call on health insurance reform

WHAT: Conference call to discuss the role of state health insurance reform in the broader national health care reform effort.
WHEN: TODAY, Thursday September 18, 2008, 2:00pm EDT
WHO: Sen. Karen Keiser, Washington State Senator
Kathleen Stoll, Deputy Executive Director, Families USA
Robyn Martin, Senior Policy Analyst, Americans for Health Care - SEIU
Megan Shannon, Chief of Staff to MA Sen. Patricia Jehlen
Joel Barkin, Executive Director, Progressive States Network
Adam Thompson, Health Care Policy Specialist, Progressive States Network
DIAL-IN: (800) 391-1709, Login Code 709424



Community Schools Movement Gains Momentum

Public schools will have more success if they pay attention not only to students' lives in the classroom, but also to the multiple elements of their development: social, emotional, physical, cognitive, civic, and moral.  If acting in silos, schools or families often cannot provide students all the support needed for academic and life success.  Community schools bring together diverse activities, professionals, and programs for an entire community, creating a system where students' whole beings are nurtured.  

By coordinating partnerships between the school and other community resources, these schools aim to increase student academic success by providing health care services; homework clubs; social services; youth development; adult education; and early childhood education. According to a report by the Coalition of Community Schools, "it is this integrated focus on academics, family and neighborhood involvement, and health and social services that leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities."

Research on Community Schools: In a recent report published by the Coalition for Community Schools (CCS), Making the Difference: Research and Practice in Community Schools, strong evidence was found to support the notion that when a community unites and becomes active partners in supporting local youths and their families, it is easier for schools focus on the business of education and helping students reach their academic goals. According to the report community schools:

  • Provided significant and widespread gains in academic achievement and in essential areas of nonacademic development;
  • Increased family stability and greater family involvement with schools;
  • Increased teacher satisfaction and more positive school environments;
  • And led to better use of school buildings, increased security and pride in neighborhoods.

Other research also underscores the importance of interconnection among school, home, family, community, and student achievement. A recent study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Closing the Achievement Gap: School, Community, Family Connections, echoes that “community schools can improve student learning, increase parent participation, give teachers more time to focus on instruction, and contribute to making schools and the community safer.”

A New Focus on Community Schools: The Center for Community Schools (CCS) has developed a Community Agenda for America’s Public Schools, which has been endorsed by organizations ranging from the League of Cities to the American Public Health Association to the PTA. The Community Agenda aims to help "struggling youth, families and communities improve their lives by fostering school and community partnerships that support student outcomes."

According to the New York Times, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, has supported an expansion of community schools as a "replacement for President Bush’s focus on standardized testing with a vision of public schools as community centers would help poor students succeed by offering not only solid classroom lessons but also medical and other services."  Similarly, US Senator Edward Kennedy last month introduced S. 3431, the Time for Innovation Matters in Education (TIME) Act, which contains language that encourages increased interaction and cooperation between schools and community organizations. “Schools need robust connections with families and other community institutions,” said Marty Blank, director of CCS. 

In an effort to educate national leaders and individuals on the benefits of school / community partnerships, the Coalition for Community Schools is sponsoring an event at the National Press Club on September 24th, 2008 entitled "A Community Agenda for America's Public Schools."

With recent polls and surveys listing education as one of America's top domestic policy issues, community schools are one innovation that can help reform schools and foster excellence, even as they build stronger communities.


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Carbon Auctions for Polluters to Start in Northeast Region

The good news is that next week, ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states will begin holding first-in-the-nation auctions of greenhouse gas allowances, an initiative aimed at capping the pollution causing global climate change.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, will cap emissions for 233 plants and allow polluting companies to buy allowances at auction or trade for them with companies willing to decrease their emissions and sell their emission allowance.

Unfortunately, because of the politics in setting the overall cap of carbon emissions, the cap on emissions was set at 188 million tons, which is higher than the estimated 172.4 million tons of emissions across the region last year. So allowances will exceed companies' need for emissions, causing the price for allowances to fall and lowering the incentive for companies to reduce their pollution.

Modest Initial Results Expected: On the other hand, the region's lower, below-the-cap carbon emissions are due both to both milder weather, which could change and thereby pressure companies to increase their efficiency, and utilities making the positive move of shifting from higher-carbon fuels to lower-carbon sources like natural gas. Plus, the overall gap will start being lowered by 2.5% a year beginning in 2015 for a 10% reduction by 2018.

A positive feature of the auction system is that revenues from the auctions will be dedicated to promoting energy efficiency in each state. As we noted in a past Dispatch, the RGGI system improves on an existing European "cap and trade" system by auctioning off all allowances, rather than giving incumbents free allowances and a windfall profit. And it much more severely restricts use of "carbon offsets," such as planting trees or other alternatives, other than restricting pollution emissions by other companies through the trading system.

Most analysts expect the initial cuts in carbon emissions from the system to be modest, but creating a working system will allow policymakers to evaluate the results and hopefully further restrict emission allowances in future auction rounds. In the meantime, RGGI is becoming a model for other states and possibly the federal government for restricting carbon emissions and helping to stop global climate change.

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Vote Suppression Watch

Now that the party nominating conventions have passed and the presidential race has reached its final leg, voter suppression efforts are shifting into high gear around the country. As each campaign assembles an army of lawyers to protect their interests leading to and on election day, state and local partisans are engaging in a wide variety of tactics to prevent their opponents' supporters from casting a ballot. Once again these underhanded tactics, which we've highlighted before, are predominantly coming from right wing operatives, and the targets are overwhelmingly groups that tend to vote for progressive candidates. Since the beginning of this month the following voters suppression campaigns have been reported:

Michigan - Lose Your Home, Lose Your Vote - Macomb County Michigan Republican Chairman Planned to Cage Foreclosure Victims: Without a doubt the most disturbing suppression tactic that has been reported in the last couple of weeks was the claim of the Republican Chairman of Macomb County, Michigan that the party planned to use lists of foreclosure notices to challenge the eligibility of voters at the polls. The lists were to be used as evidence that voters no longer resided at the address where they are registered to vote. The Democratic Party and voting rights advocates immediately expressed outrage over the tactic, which Project Vote has noted is a violation of both Michigan and federal law.

As the story quickly gained wide attention, the local and state GOP furiously denied that they had ever made such plans and have threatened to sue the original independent media website that broke the story. However, the Democratic National Committee, the Obama campaign and several voters have filed for an injunction to prevent the practice.

Florida - "No Match, No Vote" Registration Rule to be Enforced: Florida announced on September 8th that they would enforce the state's controversial "no match, no vote" voter registration policy. "No match, no vote" rejects the voter registration application of any person whose personal information does not match with that in a government database. It results in the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters and predominantly affects women and Hispanics. The policy had been put on hold due to a challenge in federal court by voting rights advocates and voters. With an initial victory having been reversed on appeal, the state is beginning enforcement for the remainder of the registration period.

Wisconsin - AG Sues to Force Voter Registration Purge: Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who serves as co-chair of the McCain campaign in that state, has sued the Government Accountability Board (GAB), a non-partisan government agency that oversees elections. Attorney General Van Hollen is demanding that the board retroactively run a database match (a la Florida) on every voter registered since January 2006. The GAB "believes it would be counter-productive to rush this effort and to create a significant risk, at best of unnecessary hardship and confusion at the polls, and at worst the disenfranchisement of Wisconsin citizens with a clear and legitimate right to vote."

Ironically, the voter purge the Attorney General is advocating would be illegal in most other states because it violates the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). However, Wisconsin is exempt because they have election day voter registration (EDR) and, therefore, challenged voters should be able to correct any registration problems at the polls. Given this, it is clear the intention of the voter purge is not to merely make sure voter information is correct. In light of this, the Wisconsin Democratic Party has filed a countersuit claiming that the Attorney General is engaged in voter suppression.

Ohio - Voter Suppression Fights Galore:

  • Sec. of State Refuses to Enforce Voter Caging Statute that Violates Federal Law and the Constitution: In a welcome move, on Septeber 5th, Ohio Secretary of State Brunner informed county election boards that a law requiring a government-run vote caging process is illegal under the federal National Voter Registration Act and the US Constitution and should not be enforced. The law, passed in 2006, specifically allows voters' eligibility to be challenged based upon one piece of returned mail, a practice known as voter caging. The Ohio law allowed a person to be disenfranchised without ever having an opportunity to prove their eligibility.
  • Ohio GOP Sues to Prevent Same-Day Registration During Early Voting Period: The Ohio Republican Party has filed a lawsuit to prevent voters from registering and casting an absentee ballot on the same day, a practice they think will favor their opponents. While Ohio does not technically allow same day registration, an early voting law passed since the last election has a five day overlap between the beginning of early voting and the end of the registration period. This allows voters to register and then cast an absentee ballot during that five day period. The Republican Party is arguing that such a practice would violate the rule that a voter must be registered for 30 days before they can vote. The Secretary of State interprets the law to allow the practice because an absentee ballot hasn't been officially "cast" until it is opened and counted on election day.
  • Ohio Sec. of State Refuses to Accept Flawed Absentee Ballot Applications Distributed by McCain Campaign: In a reversal of the pattern we have seen of Republicans strictly interpreting election law to prevent likely Democrats from registering and vote, Ohio Secretary of State Brunner has ruled that absentee ballot applications distributed by the McCain Campaign should be rejected if an unnecessary check box indicating that the person is an eligible voters in not marked. The ruling will cause the rejection of thousands of absentee ballot applications throughout the state. This is similar to a string of seemingly nit-picking Republican rulings that have frustrated Democrats in Ohio for years.

Mississippi - Governor and Sec. of State Attempt to Bury US Senate Race at the Bottom of the Ballot: In a typical example of election dirty tricks, the Governor and Secretary of State of Mississippi have decided to place one of two US Senate races at the bottom of the November ballot. The race in question is one where former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove is battling incumbent Senator Wicker in a special election for the remainder of Trent Lotts' term. Democrats charge that they are attempting to bury the race in the hopes that less people voting will boost Wicker's chances in the closely fought race. Attorney General Hood has called the move illegal and has advised election officials that the race must be at the top of the ballot with other federal races. US Rep. John Conyers has also called on the Department of Justice to investigate whether the move violates the Voting Rights Act's pre-clearence provision.

Virginia - Election Officials Try to Intimidate Student Voters: The Election Registrar of Montgomery County, Virginia, home of Virginia Tech, distributed a press release warning students of dire consequences should they register to vote from their campus address. The release erroneously claimed that students' financial aid would be put in jeopardy and that their parents might not be able to claim them as dependents on their taxes. The release drew a strong rebuke from voting rights advocates and election law experts who challenged the accuracy of the assertions and saw this as an attempt to disenfranchise students.

The State Board of Elections has released a statement refuting the claims made by Montgomery County. However, the SBOE's statement still troubles advocates because it allows election officials latitude to determine whether campus addresses are valid for registration purposes.

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Research Roundup

While the unemployment rate is one key measure of economic challenges facing workers, the Economic Policy Institute highlights another measure of worker distress in an economic snapshot: the ratio of unemployed workers to available job openings. Since December 2006, when there were 16 job seekers for every 10 job openings, that ratio has grown to 26 job seekers for every 10 openings.

State officials tempted to cut taxes on the wealthy and corporations based on arguments it will spur economic growth should heed the Center for American Progress' new report, Take a Walk on the Supply Side, which outlines the historic failure of such tax cuts to deliver income or employment growth for working families.

In a new report, Unions and Upward Mobility for Latino Workers, the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) found that unionized Latino workers earned an average of 17.6 percent more than their non-union peers and were 26 percentage points more likely to have employer-provided health insurance.

The Center for American Progress has a new resource, Ten Reasons Not to Expand Offshore Drilling, which explains why offshore drilling won't deliver enough oil to meet energy demands or lower prices, even as it distracts the nation from real solutions that can deliver energy independence.

In a new resource, Health Coverage in Communities of Color: Talking about the New Census Numbers, Minority Health Initiatives at Families USA finds that communities of color bear the brunt of the health care crisis, accounting for 55 percent of the uninsured, partly because their jobs are more likely to lack health insurance benefits.

Traditional measures of poverty don't always give a good measure of what a family needs to survive these days, so the National Center for Children in Poverty has a new online -- the Basic Needs Budget Calculator -- to calculate needed income for families in each state.

Please email us leads on good research at

New PSN Resources

Analysis of State of Immigration Policy at the nd of the 2008 Legislative Session

On September 8, 2008, PSN issued a report entitled The Anti-Immigrant Movement that Failed: Positive Integration Policies by States Still Far Outweigh Punitive Policies Aimed at New Immigrants. To view the report in HTML format, click here. For a full PDF copy of the report, click here.

Note: Some readers have had problems viewing the PDF with Adobe Acrobat Reader v7.0.9. If the text of the PDF looks garbled, try downloading an update of Acrobat Reader free from Adobe's website.


The Community Agenda for America's Public Schools

September 24, 2008
Washington DC

The Coalition for Community Schools will announce The Community Agenda for America's Public Schools at an event to be held at the National Press Club in Washington DC on September 24, 2008 at 9:30am. The Community Agenda focuses on vital partnerships to support student outcomes and provide solutions to improve the lives of struggling youth, families and neighborhoods.

Featured speakers include Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers; Warren Simmons, Executive Director, Annenberg Institute for School Reform; Anne Bryant, National School Boards Association; Linda Juszczak, Interim Executive Director, National Assembly on School-Based Health Care; Jodi Grant, Executive Director, Afterschool Alliance, Ira Harkacy, Director, Netter Center for Community Partnership at the Univ. of Pennsylvania; and, Martin Blank, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools.

For more information and RSVP instructions, click here.


The Stateside Dispatch is written and edited by:

Nathan Newman, Policy Director
Caroline Fan, Policy Specialist
Julie Schwartz, Policy Specialist
Christian Smith-Socaris, Policy Specialist
Adam Thompson, Policy Specialist
Austin Guest, Communications Specialist
Marisol Thomer, Outreach Coordinator

Please shoot us an email at if you have feedback, tips, suggestions, criticisms, or nominations for any of our sidebar features.

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