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Millions of Dollars Are Earmarked for Expanding Full-Service Community Schools: Here Are Three Ways to Use It

by Mavis G. Sanders & Claudia Galindo - October 18, 2021

As a comprehensive school reform strategy designed to meet the complex needs of students in underserved communities, full-service community schools (FSCSs) have the potential to transform these studentsí learning experiences and outcomes. In part because of findings demonstrating their positive impact, unprecedented federal, state, and local funding is earmarked for the expansion and implementation of FSCSs. School, district, and state leaders and policy makers will have to decide how to best use these funds to maximize outcomes for students and families. This commentary describes three spending priorities based on the growing body of research on FSCSs.

The full-service community school (FSCS) strategy is expanding throughout the United States with more than 5,000 currently in operation and a goal of 25,000 by 2025 (Coalition for Community Schools, 2020). FSCSs are grounded in a social justice framework and promise more equitable educational experiences for historically underserved students (Galindo & Sanders, 2019). These schools are characterized by four pillars of practice: integrated health and social services, extended culturally and community responsive learning opportunities, collaborative leadership, and family and community engagement (Oakes et al., 2017). Through these defining features, FSCSs seek to create better resourced learning environments and more engaged school stakeholders to prepare college-, career-, and civic-ready students (Galindo & Sanders, 2021).  

In part because of findings demonstrating their positive impact (Biag & Castrechini, 2016; Oakes et al., 2017; Sanders & Galindo, 2020), unprecedented federal, state, and local funding is earmarked for the expansion and implementation of FSCSs. For example, the Biden administration is proposing over $400 million (15 times the current level) in its FY22 budget to expand FSCSs (Mohler, 2021). The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future (Gaines, 2019), legislation passed in 2019, includes about $51 million for the expansion of FSCS practices and services in high-poverty schools, and in 2014, New York City allocated $54 million to launch 45 FSCSs (Johnston et al., 2020). School, district, and state leaders and policy makers will have to decide how to best use these funds to maximize outcomes for students and families. Here, we describe three spending priorities based on the growing body of research on FSCSs.


FSCSs provide students and families with extended services, requiring additional personnel to plan, coordinate, deliver, and evaluate them. The community school coordinator (CSC) is essential among these personnel. Their role is to develop community partnerships that align with the pillars of the FSCS strategy and advance key school goals (Mayger & Hochbein, 2019; Sanders et al., 2019). The CSC’s work is extensive and must be protected from “mission creep” (i.e., the temptation to direct the professional responsibilities of the CSC away from community partnerships to other school-based activities).

Investing in a family engagement liaison and clinician is one way to ensure that all pillars of the FSCS strategy are implemented. The liaison collaborates with the CSC to ensure that families are empowered stakeholders, actively engaged in school decision-making and supporting their children’s learning and development—a persistent challenge for many FSCSs despite their emphasis on equitable family engagement (Chen et al., 2016). The clinician helps coordinate outreach and services—from dental checks to family counseling—to ensure that FSCSs effectively promote student, family, and community health and safety as part of a “whole school, whole community, whole child” approach (Medina et al., 2019; Temkin et al., 2020).


FSCSs are not just traditional schools with extra support staff; they operate within an equity framework that seeks to improve educational experiences and outcomes for underserved students. It is important that key stakeholders—principals, teachers, and FSCS personnel—are empowered to disrupt the status quo in schools and communities (McKinney de Royston & Madkins, 2019). Professional development is essential for these diverse stakeholders to understand the roles and responsibilities on which FSCSs rely (Voyles, 2012). Such professional development will also broaden awareness of the underlying principles of FSCSs and systemic barriers to students’ learning and well-being (Daniel et al., 2019). Teachers and staff can then foster trusting relationships across professional, racial, class, and gender boundaries and build the capacity of FSCSs to achieve their transformative potential (Daniel, 2017).


FSCSs aim to be community learning hubs by partnering with community organizations to identify and fund learning opportunities for families, students, and community members (Author). These programs occur outside the regular school day—over the summer, during extended school breaks, and after school. When most effective, they are community- and culturally responsive and reflect learners’ assets, needs, and interests (Hauseman, 2016). Community members can explore the arts, STEM, GED classes, tutoring, service learning, and more (Anderson-Butcher, 2004). Removing barriers to participation by providing meals and transportation is a vital way for FSCSs to realize their roles as sources of place-based human and social capital (Jacobson, 2016).

This is an exciting time and a major turning point for FSCSs. The spending priorities we outline will help to ensure that these schools are equipped not only to expand as schools reopen during COVID-19 recovery, but also to accelerate the transformation of schooling for underserved children, families, and communities.


Anderson-Butcher, D. (2004). Transforming schools into 21st century community learning centers. Children & Schools, 26(4), 248–252. https://doi.org/10.1093/cs/26.4.248


Biag, M., & Castrechini, S. (2016). Coordinated strategies to help the whole child: Examining the contributions of full-service community schools. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 21(3), 157–173.


Chen, M. E., Anderson, J. A., & Watkins, L. (2016). Parent perceptions of connectedness in a full service community school project. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 25(7), 2268–2278.


Coalition for Community Schools. (2020). 25,000 Community Schools by 2025. https://www.communityschools.org/lead/policy-pulse/campaigns/


Daniel, J. (2017). Strong collaborative relationships for strong community schools. National Education Policy Center. https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED578684.pdf


Daniel, J., Quartz, K. H., & Oakes, J. (2019). Teaching in community schools: Creating conditions for deeper learning. Review of Research in Education, 43(1), 453–480.


Gaines, D. (2019).  Cash for Kirwan Commission grants is flowing to local school boards. Maryland Matters. https://www.marylandmatters.org/2019/07/23/cash-for-kirwan-commission-grants-is-flowing-to-local-school-boards/

Galindo, C., & Sanders, M. G. (2019). Achieving equity in education through fullservice community schools. The Wiley handbook of family, school, and community relationships in education, 511-530. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119083054.ch24

Galindo, C. L., & Sanders, M. G. (2021). Teachers’ academic optimism and professional practice in an urban full-service community high school. Journal of Educational Change, 1-28. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10833-021-09430-6


Hauseman, D. C. (2016). Youth-led community arts hubs: Self-determined learning in an out-of-school time (OST) program. Cogent Education, 3(1), 1210492. https://doi.org/10.1080/2331186X.2016.1210492


Jacobson, R. (2016). Community schools: A place-based approach to education and neighborhood change. The Brookings Institution. https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/jacobson-final-layout-published-11-16-16.pdf


Johnston, W., Engberg, J., Opper, I., Sontag-Padilla, L., & Xenakis, L. (2020). Illustrating the promise of community schools: An assessment of the impact of the New York City community schools initiative. RAND Corporation. https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR3245.html


Mayger, L. K., & Hochbein, C. D. (2019). Spanning boundaries and balancing tensions: A systems perspective on community school coordinators. School Community Journal, 29(2), 225–254.


McKinney de Royston, M., & Madkins, T. C. (2019). A question of necessity or of equity? Full-service community schools and the (mis)education of Black youth. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 24(3), 244-271.


Medina, M. A., Cosby, G., & Grim, J. (2019). Community engagement through partnerships: Lessons learned from a decade of full-service community school implementation. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR), 24(3), 272–287.


Mohler, J. (2021). Biden proposes increasing funding for community schools by 15 times the current level. In the Public Interest. https://www.inthepublicinterest.org/


Oakes, J., Maier, A., & Daniel, J. (2017). Community schools: An evidence-based strategy for equitable school improvement. National Education Policy Center and Learning Policy Institute. https://learningpolicyinstitute.org/sites/default/files/product-files/Community_Schools_Evidence_Based_Strategy_BRIEF.pdf

Sanders, M., Galindo, C., & DeTablan, D. (2019). Leadership for collaboration: Exploring how school coordinators advance the goals of full-service community schools. Children and Schools, 41, 89-100. doi: 10.1093/cs/cdz006

Sanders, M. G., & Galindo, C. (Eds.). (2020). Reviewing the success of full-service community schools in the US: Challenges and opportunities for students, teachers, and communities. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781003010388

Temkin, D., Harper, K., Stratford, B., Sacks, V., Rodriguez, Y., & Bartlett, J. (2020). Moving policy toward a whole school, whole community, whole child approach to support children who have experienced trauma. Journal of School Health, 90(12), 940–947. https://doi.org/10.1111/josh.12957


Voyles, M. M. (2012). Perceived needs of at-risk families in a small town: Implications for full-service community schools. School Community Journal, 22(2), 31–63.


Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: October 18, 2021
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23871, Date Accessed: 12/3/2021 9:01:31 AM

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About the Author
  • Mavis G. Sanders
    University of Maryland, Baltimore County
    E-mail Author
    MAVIS SANDERS, Ph.D., is professor of education and an affiliate professor in the doctoral program in language, literacy, and culture at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). She has authored over 60 publications on the implementation and outcomes of home, school, and community partnerships. Her current research, funded by the Spencer Foundation, examines full-service community schools as a strategy to transform educational experiences and outcomes for underserved students.
  • Claudia Galindo
    University of Maryland, College Park
    E-mail Author
    CLAUDIA GALINDO, Ph.D., is an associate professor in the Education Policy program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research examines racial/ethnic minoritized and poor studentsí academic outcomes and school experiences, paying particular attention to Latin@ populations. Dr. Galindo also conducts interdisciplinary and mixed-methods research to study the implementation of educational reforms. She studies full-service community schools, a re-emerging strategy that focuses on the holistic needs of students and their families.
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