Sen. Pacione-Zayas

SPRINGFIELD – In collaboration with the Illinois Federation of Teachers, State Senator Cristina H. Pacione-Zayas introduced new legislation to clarify and expand offerings and funding for community schools in Illinois, ensuring that innovative community education models can reach more geographies.

“As a former community schools director, I can testify to the numerous benefits community schools yield for students, their families, and communities at large. Thriving communities have strong neighborhood schools that extend their walls into the neighborhood,” said Pacione-Zayas (D-Chicago). “Community schools complement formal schooling by providing out of school time programming including arts enrichment, homework help, leadership development, sports, and adult education. The positive impact can be transformational for young people and an entire community. This initiative will support greater access to students and families across Illinois.”

Community schools are schools that cultivate and sustain strategic partnerships between the school and other community resources to promote student achievement, positive learning conditions, and the well-being of students through wraparound services. Senate Bill 2391 adds language about a designated program coordinator and articulates types of wrap-around services that could be offered in a community school.

Currently, the Illinois State Board of Education passes through federal grants to create new sites and support existing community schools across the state. Senate Bill 2391 broadens the offerings of community schools, promotes trauma informed interventions, and encourages the state to ensure funding opportunities through state and federal resources.  

“Every school should have access to the resources needed to become a sustainable community school, including a designated community school coordinator, which is essential to link services and develop community partnerships” said Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery. “The transformative power of community schools, and their unique capacity to serve all students, have proven to positively impact academic, health, and social outcomes for students by providing year-round, comprehensive, multi-faceted support for whole child/whole community well-being. With this legislation, it is our hope the number of community schools will increase throughout the state.”

Senate Bill 2391 passed the Education committee on March 7, 2023. It now goes to the Senate floor for further consideration.