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Bipartisan House Bill Would Boost Community Schools

Coming on the heels of several bipartisan, education-related bills making their way through the House, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill., hopped on the bandwagon Wednesday and unveiled a co-sponsored measure to boost community schools.

The bill would provide grants to school districts to fund what's known as "full-service community school models," public elementary or secondary schools that partner with non-profit organizations to provide wraparound services, such health care, job training, counseling and nutrition services. Priority for the grants would be given to high-poverty schools and rural districts.

It's unclear how much funding the duo plans to seek for its community-school proposal, an important detail if they plan to round up support from additional GOP members.  

"Full-service community schools are a critical tool in the effort to close the achievement gap and ensure that we are graduating students who are college- and career-ready," said Hoyer in a statement.

Community schools are a personal issue for Hoyer. The Judith P. Hoyer Early Childhood and Family Education Centers, a network of community schools named after his late wife, herself an early-education advocate, operate throughout Maryland providing services to children and their families 10-12 hours per day, year-round.

Hoyer also held a seat on the House education committee for more than two decades, so education issues have always been something he's championed. He's introduced various versions of this bill in several previous Congresses.

Schock is a bit further removed from the education scene, but he did get up-close and personal with education issues in his five years on the Peoria, Ill., school board, including one as president.

"Motivating children to learn, teaching them to succeed, and meeting their basic needs are a daily concern for everyone involved," said Schock in a statement. "Although relatively new to Peoria, these [community] schools are making a difference for educators, parents, and most importantly, the students."

The Hoyer/Schock bill is endorsed by more than 30 organizations, including the Coalition for Community Schools and the American Federation of Teachers.

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