"Community Schools" - A Plan for Bigger Government
By Linda MurphyWhile most Republicans say they support “limited government,” a plan to greatly expand government has gained support among a group of Republicans in the Oklahoma legislature. The “Community Schools” model of public education was fully embraced and advanced by the Obama administration along with the usual supporters on the political left, who have long wanted to provide unlimited government funding for poverty. During a White House “Jobs Summit,” President Obama said that Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) had a terrific idea suggesting that we establish Community Schools, especially in rural areas, where parents can get training after hours.
Later, Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education under Obama, provided more details. Duncan said “This battle is about more than education. This is a battle for Social Justice.” He stated that “Community Schools” should be open 7 days a week, 12 -14 hours a day and 12 months every year.
These schools provide for all perceived needs for the children and their families. Duncan said we have some Community Schools where 100 -150 parents come to school every day, not for their children but for their own learning. He stated that making every school a Community School must be our collective vision.
The “Community School” model includes but is not limited to:
- Health clinics at the school; medical doctors; counseling and other mental health services; dental care; glasses
- Employment services and job connections for the family
- Pot luck dinners for the families
- Before and after school activities, learning, entertainment, and childcare
- Meals before, during and after school
- GED classes for parents
- Language classes for parents who have limited English
- Family counseling
- Family Housing needs
- A safe environment away from violent neighborhoods
Community School supporters:
Congressman Bernie Sanders, Democratic Socialist, speaking with Arne Duncan in a Congressional hearing said, “Would you agree that our goal should be that every parent in this country should be able to find access to high quality affordable childcare?”
Duncan replied, “I think we should move toward that opportunity for Universal Access. The more we get to our children early the better they are going to do.”
Sanders asked, “In terms of prevention and protecting people’s well-being and saving money, in terms of primary health care… Does the idea of bringing health care into schools so that we can detect kids’ problems early on make sense to you?”
Duncan replied, “I think that the more our schools become Community centers, the more they become centers of community life, the better our children can do.”
Randi Weingarten – American Federation of Teachers (AFT) – is a strong supporter of Community Schools. She said this is something the teachers’ union really believes in! “We have all shared responsibility for children. We need to provide all the necessities for students and we are not doing that yet. We have been working on this in New York for a long time. Children’s Aid Society has worked on this in a coalition with us. People can ‘drop-in’ at the Community Schools ‘around the clock’ for learning, for healthcare and volunteer projects.”
Weingarten went on to say, “I have laid out a vision for full-service Community Schools. At our convention I asked our delegates (teachers’ union members), to imagine a federal law that provides all the services and resources needed by students and families, under one roof. We need to provide Community Schools so they become, just like a Church becomes, the center of a community.”
John Podesta, founder of the Center for American Progress (CAP), Chief of Staff to President Clinton; along with Tony Blair, former UK Prime Minister; and Steny Hoyer, Democrat Congressman, spoke at the CAP conference on their support for Community Schools. Blair focused on providing for the poor children and families what they cannot provide for themselves. Hoyer quoted John Dewey who said, “The conception of the school as a social center is born of our entire Democratic Movement.” Dewey was a signer of the Humanist Manifesto.
The National Assembly on School Based Health Care has worked hand-in-hand with supporters of Community Schools to implement more clinics. They say they have “brought the doctor’s office to the school.” Public support for school-based medical clinics has declined, however, due to the loss of trust in the medical profession, following the COVID pandemic. Thus, more and more parents are less supportive of using school based medical clinics.
Annenberg Institute for School Reform is one of the organizations backing Community Schools. Their spokesman said this is part of the smart education system we want. It will achieve a broad set of positive outcomes including, but not limited to academic achievement, tantamount to the development of multiple forms of capital- health, social, cultural, political, and intellectual as well as financial.
The National School Boards Association, which recently called for parents to be investigated by federal law enforcement if they speak out too much at the school, also put its support behind this expansion. The director said they endorsed the Community Schools agenda for America. Schools should be where we all come together.
Oklahoma Democrats are thrilled to have some Republicans join in this long-time dream of the left to expand “Community Schools.” This model of education is closely aligned with the EduCare system developed by Democrat George Kaiser, a Tulsa philanthropist, who has leveraged state and federal dollars along with his own contributions, which he uses as seed money to get the ball rolling. EduCare provides a variety of services to families and their children starting from 6-weeks-old until they enter the public-school classroom.
EduCare is part of The Tulsa Area Community Schools Initiative (TACSI), which was established through the Tulsa Metropolitan Human Services Commission in 2007. To connect early childhood care with the first years of school, Tulsa was awarded as one of the first three cities nationally to receive a W.K. Kellogg Foundation “Early Childhood and Community Schools Linkage Grant” to build a coordinated continuum from early child care to the K-12 education system.
George Kaiser’s vision for Tulsa is outlined in an interview with the New York Times entitled “The Man Turning Tulsa Into Beta City, U.S.A.” (12-22-2016). From the article: “If Kaiser could change one structural aspect of the country, he said he’d eliminate the attitude that centralized control is inherently evil. He agrees with the populist concept that people have equal character and judgment, but he said the corollary to that concept – that no one should tell you what to do – has morphed into an encumbering fear of the federal government. He’s fought to increase taxes on Oklahoma oil and gas producers.”
At the state capitol, several Democrat legislators co-authored a house bill (HB3374) for Community Schools by Republican Tammy West. The bill passed the House, but failed to be considered in the Senate. West conducted an interim study, which she closed with enthusiastic praise for all the services a Community School provides.
I understand the Humanitarian appeal which gets intertwined with the Christian virtue of helping people, but we must consider what this extensive government involvement will do in the long run to the family. We must consider what is the best role for the government, the role of the church and the role of the family. We must also realize that there are incalculable costs that will be attached to such a comprehensive program.
The Coalition for Community Schools has been bringing national leaders together for several years in order to help advance this expansion of government involvement and government funding to families in poverty under the umbrella of the schoolhouse. It has long been observed that the school is the one place in every community across the country where there is a “captive audience” to bring about the social change desired by the left. I hope Republicans will consider these issues closely and stop this agenda from advancing in our state.
Linda Murphy was Oklahoma Governor Keating’s Education Advisor, Deputy Commissioner of Labor for Workforce Education and Training, Administrator of the Eastern Oklahoma Department of Labor, Member of the State Job Training Coordinating Council, and the Governor’s School-to-Work Council. She was a candidate for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1994, 1998 and 2018. Murphy was appointed by Governor Keating as Secretary of Education, but was denied confirmation by the majority Democrat Education Committee, following her 49.5% statewide vote in 1994. She also served on the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. More recently, she has served as Chairman of the Oklahoma Republican Party’s Committee on Education. You may contact Linda at: email@example.com