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Federal Funding Sources for Community Schools

By Stephen Kostyo Tiffany Miller
Adults and children filling brown bags with food items.

A community schools strategy transforms a school into a place where educators, local community members, families, and students work together to strengthen conditions for student learning and healthy development. Together, with the support of a community school coordinator, they organize in-school and out-of-school resources and opportunities so schools can serve as hubs for a range of services and supports for students and their families. Community schools are designed to be responsive to the needs of their local communities, including the array of services and supports provided. While no two community schools are identical, they share several common practices. These include empowering student and family engagement; collaborative leadership and shared power; expanded, enriched learning opportunities; rigorous, community-connected classroom instruction; a culture of belonging, safety, and care; and integrated systems of support.

Community schools are a core component of an equity strategy. The community schools theory of action is grounded in research and deep field experience showing that children—regardless of their race, ethnicity, zip code, or circumstance—thrive in “whole child” environments in which their physical, cognitive, academic, and social and emotional development needs are met.

This report includes a comprehensive but not exhaustive description and list of federal programs that could fund community schools. While most community schools are funded by a combination of federal, state, local, public, and private funds, this report focuses on the numerous federal opportunities to start, support, and sustain whole child approaches to learning and development through community schools. The U.S. Department of Education (ED), nonprofit organizations, and the White House have put together helpful guides, recommendations, and frameworks to finance and sustain community schools and implement integrated student support services. This report builds on these resources to create a comprehensive overview that maps each program to the Essentials for Community School Transformation framework identified by the Community Schools Forward Task Force in January 2023. Some common themes are that each site has unique needs depending on its location (e.g., urban, rural, or tribal) and stage of development (e.g., planning to implement or ready to expand) and that “a mix of funding is essential.”

Because community schools are designed to bring together a comprehensive range of services and resources to meet the needs of students and caregivers, schools, districts, and states can leverage funding streams across agencies to support their development, implementation, and growth. For example, states can blend and braid almost any funding stream through ED to support community schools. Plus, funding from other federal agencies can ensure that students and their families can access systems of integrated supports, such as physical and mental health care (Health and Human Services), mentoring (Justice), community service (AmeriCorps), nutrition assistance (Agriculture), shelter (Housing and Urban Development), career training (Labor), broadband (Commerce and Federal Communications), and transport (Transportation). A 2023 toolkit from the White House also identifies funding sources through the Department of Defense and Department of the Interior that can contribute to community school approaches.

District- or nonprofit-led community schools initiative staff, school administrators, and community school coordinators involved in the planning, budget, and support for community schools should consider this report a resource for potential federal revenue sources to consult when looking for funding to support their local community school approaches. It includes the funding type (i.e., formula, competitive, other), program eligibility, the most recent federal appropriation, a brief program description, and key activities aligned with the Essentials for Community School Transformation.

Estimated Total Federal Funding Amounts for Community Schools

Fiscal year 2023 appropriations or recent funding from federal sources that can contribute to community schools total around $119 billion, which includes an estimated $4.5 billion in Medicaid funding and $5.7 billion in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families spending going to schools. In addition, over $178.7 billion in COVID-19 relief spending from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act can also be blended and braided into state approaches to support community schools. Plus, the short-term supplemental funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provides almost $68.1 billion until 2027 to school-related programs, which can be used to support broadband expansion to help bolster instruction at community schools and programs to improve school climates. These resources highlight how community schools can incorporate elements of a variety of federal programs with approximately $366 billion in available funding to provide services and advance whole child approaches to education.

Community schools can incorporate elements of a variety of federal programs with approximately $366 billion in available funding to provide services and advance whole child approaches to education.

The estimated total available federal funding amounts for community schools are listed in this report. In addition, the amount of funding that can directly go toward community schools varies by program. As such, the list is meant to highlight funding streams that can be blended and braided to create a cohesive approach to serving students and families. Funding sources provided in this report are not for community schools only and have multiple allowable uses.

Overall, this report provides an overview of federal programs and examples of how federal funds can support evidence-based community school models that provide a comprehensive range of services to students across multiple agencies and programs. How community schools access federal funds depends on state and local policies, leading to variations in their use. Since community schools are best supported by a variety of sources, states and localities can take this information to assist in blending and braiding resources and modeling for localities how to use resources comprehensively and sustainably.

Federal Funding Sources for Community Schools by Stephen Kostyo and Tiffany Miller is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

This research was supported by the Ballmer Group, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Raikes Foundation, Stuart Foundation, and Yellow Chair Foundation. Additional core operating support for LPI is provided by the Heising-Simons Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Sandler Foundation, and MacKenzie Scott. We are grateful to them for their generous support. The ideas voiced here are those of the authors and not those of our funders