Monday, September 14, 2009

Actress Garner backs bill for 'full-service' schools, says need is crucial in rural areas

A Senate bill that would provide $1 billion to expand the number of full-service community schools across the country is gaining support. Community schools "go beyond traditional models and provide services to students and their families such as primary, dental and mental health care, career counseling and nutrition education," Joseph Morton of the Omaha World-Herald reports.

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., and Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., introduced the Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2009, which would set up a five-year grant program to increase those programs. Nelson appeared last week alongside actress Jennifer Garner, left, whose elementary- and secondary-school years were spent in Princeton, a town of 6,300 in far southern West Virginia.

"We need innovative solutions, and full-service community schools are a brilliant way to reach parents and kids in need," Garner wrote with Mark Shriver for the Huffington Post. "Providing these kinds of services is crucial in low-income, rural areas, where it's more difficult to reach parents and families." (Read more)

Supporters of the bill point to improved student attendance, scholastic achievement and parental involvement as reasons for community schools, Morton reports. Nelson says $1 billion is a lot of money, but "it must be compared to the societal cost of children who can't learn due to hunger, family financial problems or mental health problems." (Read more)

"As Congress begins to consider a renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act, a measure like this one could be a good way to get some love from the folks who feel strongly that health, social services, and extracurricular activities are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to boosting student achievement," Alyson Klein of Education Week writes. (Read more)

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