“Full-Service Community schools” operate on the theory that opportunities and supports will be offered through partnerships with vendors assigned to the school. For efficient and cost-effective delivery, these partnerships must be scaled up and centrally administered, with a range of service vendors to choose from. Community health dollars could be diverted to vendors in low-income districts, while music teachers might be chosen for a showcase school.
Years of top-down mandates and relentless suppression of minority children’s rights have ensured families and educators are primed to embrace our new privatized version of the community school concept. People are going to think we’ve finally come to our senses and decided to invest more decision-making power at the local level. The truth is that by starving schools of resources over the past decade we’ve ensured countless opportunities for non-profits and other interest groups to step in and provide services that were once part and parcel of normal school operations in wealthy districts.
Art programs, music programs, library services, extracurricular activities, and especially nursing and counseling services for vulnerable children have been cut severely. This has created openings for outside partners and the foundations and investors that fund them. Privatization is happening incrementally, one essential service at a time, in schools that have not been closed or put in turnaround or charter networks.
Organizations like Communities in Schools have built close relationships with impact-investing players like Social Finance and the Social Innovation Fund. At the same time entities like Strive Together are positioning themselves to facilitate partnerships and guide children from “cradle to career” while collecting data at every turn. As our version of the community schools model is adopted, new markets will open up for health, mental health and out-of-school time providers to capitalize on childhood poverty and trauma via the mechanism of Social Impact Bonds.
At first glance, most will think we mean “Little C” community when talking about community schools, people who live in the neighborhood and who work in the school. In reality it will be the “Big C” community that stands to benefit; partners like the United Way, institutions of higher education, chambers of commerce, regional-health and social service providers and even local employers. Children accessing wrap-around services, out of school learning (ELOs) and workforce training will generate the data that these predatory partners will use to manufacture their profit. All of this is predicated on continued defunding of public education.