(TRENTON) – With the objective to address specific academic, social and health needs of communities across New Jersey, the full Assembly on Thursday advanced legislation 57-18-1 to create a five-year Community Schools Pilot Program in the New Jersey Department of Education.
Community schools are built on partnerships between public schools, nonprofits and local governments. By integrating resources, community schools bring together academic, health and social services, youth and community development and family engagement programs to address a community’s identified needs.
“Community schools can look different in every neighborhood. They are tailored to what a community needs, from anti-hunger initiatives to adult literacy programs,” said Assemblywoman Mila Jasey (D-Essex, Morris), prime sponsor of the legislation. “With an emphasis on real-world learning and community problem-solving, these schools can become the heart of their communities.”
Under the measure (A-1055), the Commissioner of the Department of Education would identify a nonprofit responsible for managing the pilot program and provide information and assistance to schools. The nonprofit would select no more than 50 schools to participate.
An independent entity would perform an annual audit of the organization’s accounts and financial transactions to ensure transparency. There would also be an independent evaluation of the pilot program that would be delivered to the Governor and Legislature.
The legislation is also sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker and Pam Lampitt.
“By using public schools as centralized hubs, organizations can work together to offer a wide range of support for children and families,” said Zwicker (D- Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “Community schools have the capacity to address social determinants of health like education, job training and healthcare all under one roof. They serve as safe, supportive spaces for people of all ages to grow and thrive.”
“The goals of community schools are to enhance student learning, empower families and foster healthier environments to live, work and learn,” said Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “We’ve seen successful community school models in places like Trenton, Newark and Paterson. By expanding opportunities for districts to create community schools, we will ensure more residents are connected to vital resources.”
The measure now goes to the Senate.