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Advocates Lament Lack of Funding for Social Services at Community Schools

AP Photo/Jennifer Sinco Kelleher

Many advocates across Virginia are hoping local community schools could become a hub for social services. But, they're dealing with a major setback.

Many advocates see your local community school as a place that can offer more than education. They say it can be a hub for social services addressing food insecurity, inadequate housing, internet access or unmet health needs.

That's why Chad Stewart at the Commonwealth Institute says so many people were discouraged when lawmakers did not use any of the federal stimulus cash on that idea.

"Most advocates in the coalition are disappointed that we didn't see funding during the special session for community schools," Stewart says. "We really see it as a pressing issue that we are going to need to continue working with lawmakers on over the coming months and into the next legislative session on."

James Fedderman at the Virginia Education Association says advocates will continue pressing for wraparound services at community schools next year.

"These services can create access for the community to get health services, nutrition, housing support, tutoring and expanded learning time — all of which are shown to, you know, show improved student outcomes," Fedderman explains.

One potential stumbling block: unlike other states, Virginia does not have an existing state office to implement this kind of program. That's why advocates are pressing for the Virginia Department of Education to form an office to work with school divisions on implementation.

**Editor's Note: The Virginia Education Association is a financial supporter of RADIO IQ.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria. He has reported for NPR, the New York Daily News and the Alexandria Gazette Packet. He has a master's degree in American Studies from Florida State University, and he is a former adjunct professor at Tallahassee Community College. He is the author of four books.