On July 12, the U.S. Department of Education announced $68 million in grants for Full-Service Community Schools. President Biden has already requested $468 million for the 2023 fiscal year for community schools and has made it clear that an expansion of community schools falls within his policy agenda.
What is behind this aggressive push for community schools by the White House, state governments and the education establishment? While the focus on the broader needs of the students and their families rather than just education seems benign, in reality, it is
anything but innocent. The schools are a means to advance a radical, left-wing agenda on children, often without their parents’ knowledge.
The unique feature of a community school is integrated student services, commonly referred to as wraparound services. The school coordinates with outside organizations to provide services ranging from tutoring, housing assistance, food banks, clothing, language classes, medical care, dental care and mental health services.
The philosophy behind these K-12 public schools is the belief that schools should help resolve challenges that make it difficult for students to learn. These include poverty, housing instability, trauma and a lack of quality health care.
Currently, the 10,000 community schools nationwide equate to roughly 6% to 8% of U.S. public schools. But if the federal government has its way, that number will increase dramatically.
At first glance, community schools sound like a great idea. What’s not to like about providing kids a host of needed services? Unfortunately, however, as is usually the case when a powerful national education union gets involved, a political agenda is lurking. In this case, destructive results will ensue.
One of the most passionate champions of community schools is Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association. As the largest labor union in the country, the NEA provides millions of dollars to Democratic candidates and causes.
Before the Biden administration took office, Ms. Pringle met with the Biden-Harris team to push community schools as a model. Ms. Pringle advocates that “Every school should be a community school.” To fuel that effort, Ms. Pringle allocates $3 million each year to transition schools to community schools, with hopes that the work will be her legacy. Her starting point is the country’s 100 largest school districts.
Former New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and California Gov. Gavin Newsom have also pumped billions into community schools, with aggressive goals for turning traditional public schools into community schools.
School partnerships with youth associations, health care providers, social services and community organizations can be positive. However, in the case of community schools, the partnerships sought include Planned Parenthood, LGBTQ activist organizations or other left-wing community organizations. The goal is clear: leverage public funding to advance a radical worldview and political agenda.
Mr. Biden recently came under fire for his telling statement to teachers that school children are “not somebody else’s children; they’re like yours when they’re in the classroom.” The community school effort seeks to further transfer authority over children from their parents to the education establishment. Take, for example, the health care services provided by community schools. The school functions in the role of the parent, coordinating dental or medical appointments — parents need not schedule nor attend the appointments, including physical exams.
Furthermore, in many cases, communication with the parents is not required, so parents aren’t even aware of the medical counseling or treatment their child has received.
The most alarming area of this ideological battle involving our children is that of sex and gender. Across the nation, confused children, swayed by school personnel with an ideological agenda, are funneled toward sexually related treatments such as contraception, abortion, puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones and even surgeries aimed at making the child appear as the opposite sex. Many of these
“treatments” can result in sterilization and other lasting damage.
Meanwhile, parents can easily be unaware that these major, irreversible decisions are taking place. In this brave new world, parents can not only be locked out of the decisions but lose custody of their child if they are anything less than affirming of the radical gender ideology. Abby Martinez is one parent who lost custody of her teen daughter who wanted to medically “transition.” In the end, Ms. Martinez’s daughter tragically took her own life three years after she began taking cross-sex hormones as her depression deepened.
The true agenda of the community school effort can be seen as its proponents’ emphasis on gender inclusivity and LGBTQ rights. Obviously, schools have a responsibility to promote respect for the dignity of each person as well as to implement strong anti-bullying policies. But that is quite different than the promotion of radical ideology and services provided toward life-changing decisions of minor children, kept secret from their parents.
The NEA’s central role in the push for community schools should be a red flag, as their motives have been made obvious by their endorsement of a host of radical policy agendas. For example, following the overturning of Roe v. Wade, delegates at the NEA
convention recently passed a resolution that stated, “NEA will publicly stand in defense of abortion and reproductive rights and encourage members to participate in activities including rallies and demonstrations, lobbying and political campaigns, educational events, and other actions to support the right to abortion, contraception, and a person’s decision about their health.” While some members sought to take a middle ground on the issue, they were ultimately voted down by a monstrous 74% majority for the resolution.
The NEA delegation also passed a resolution vowing to oppose a law in Florida that limits sexual education in early childhood education. Additionally, the NEA driving committed over $140,000 toward research of organizations that seek to limit sexual content and gender ideology in schools, which they deem a threat to their efforts. The research, which will be provided to state affiliates of the NEA,
will include information about the organizations’ funding and strategies.
In short, the NEA has made it abundantly clear that it is not interested in taking a neutral stance or acting open-mindedly about various approaches to raising and educating children. As a left-wing activist labor union, it’s clear in which direction it will attempt to pull community schools.
Community schools present danger on two key fronts. First, the community school movement seeks to usurp the role of parents. This represents a grave threat to students’ psychological and bodily well-being because parents and guardians know what is best for their
children. Second, the movement is a thinly veiled attempt to further inject radical ideologies into the school day, thus harming the hearts and minds of children and teens, and at the expense of their academic learning.
The misguided push for community schools must be resisted on every level. State government policymakers, parents, educators, business leaders and other education stakeholders must push back against these attempts to centralize the care and raising of our children.
Elected officials must introduce legislation to keep cities and towns free of community schools. Any positive benefits from the services they coordinate are more than offset by the negative impacts of the extreme progressive ideology they impose on captive children. Families can receive services through other avenues. Furthermore, we must protect parents’ rights by increasing requirements for parental consent in
all schools, especially regarding sex education and medical counseling and treatment.
Ultimately, parents should be free to choose the school that will best serve their child’s needs, with funding allocated to the student rather than the system. Mothers and fathers ultimately know what is best for their children and have the primary responsibility for their health, well-being and education.
The time to speak out in opposition is now, just as hundreds did at this month at the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School Board meeting. They successfully lobbied the school board to table a decision to open a Planned Parenthood clinic in one of the district’s high schools. Parents and concerned community members everywhere need to get involved, making their voices heard to contest the swift growth of the harmful community school movement.
• Dr. Keri D. Ingraham is a fellow at Discovery Institute and Director of the Institute’s American Center for Transforming Education. Arina O. Grossu is a fellow at Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.
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