(CNSNews.com) – A Senate-passed education bill would extend an existing federal program that funds “full service community schools” for another five years.
Such schools provide comprehensive year-round, around-the-clock social services to students and their families, but critics refer to them as “parent replacement centers.”
The Full-Service Community Schools Act of 2015 (S. 1787) introduced by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was added on as an amendment to the Senate reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act called the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 (S.1177).
The reauthorization easily cleared the Senate on an 81-to-17 vote on July 16.
A congressional conference will reconcile the Senate bill with the House's Student Success Act (H.R.5), which passed July 8 on a 218-to-213 party-line vote. However, the House reauthorization of NCLB does not contain funding for full-service community schools.
The U.S. Department of Education’s Full Service Community Schools Program has awarded $55.2 million to various applicants since FY 2008, with preference given to groups that operate in the White House’s designated Promise Zones.
The department filed a notice in the Federal Register on May 6 soliciting applications for the program, which will be paid for by The Fund for the Improvement of Education (FIE).
Applicants, defined as “consortia consisting of a local educational agency and one or more community-based organizations,” can request up to $500,000 for each of five years, for a maximum of $2.5 million. So far this year, the department has awarded 12 grants totaling $5.2 million.
According to the Coalition for Community Schools, there are an estimated 5,000 full service community schools currently in operation in the U.S. “Using public schools as hubs, community schools bring together many partners to offer a range of supports and opportunities to children, youth, families and communities,” the group’s website states.
Brown’s amendment would extend funding for five years for schools that participate “in a community-based effort to coordinate and integrate educational, developmental, family, health, and other comprehensive services through community-based organizations and public and private partnerships.”
According to his bill, such schools must agree to provide “not less than 3 qualified services …and not less than 2 additional qualified services” to students both before and after school, on the weekends and during the summer “to meet the holistic needs of children”.
The type of services that would be provided are based on a “needs assessment that identifies the academic, physical, social, emotional, health, mental health, and other needs of students, families, and community residents.”
They include: “early childhood education…remedial education… enrichment activities…nurse home visitation services…teacher home visiting…summer or after-school enrichment…mentoring and other youth development programs…child care services…nutrition services…primary health and dental care… mental health counseling…and parenting education” among others.
Each school would have a full-time staff of “specialized support personnel” for “planning, coordination, management, and oversight of qualified services at each school to be served, including the role of the school principal, partner entities, parents, and members of the community.”
The bill would also provide grant money to states for five years to help them develop and evaluate more “full-service community schools.”
“Community schools have a proven track record of connecting students and their families to critical services. This amendment will help expand this model so more students can access essential resources like medical care and after-school care,” Brown said in a statement. “This will ensure that students can focus their attention on succeeding in school.”
But some education experts are warning about the danger of turning public schools into “hubs” for what they say is not education, but social engineering.
The idea of using public schools to create community “hubs” is “modeled after the Soviet system” and is “part of Hillary Clinton’s ‘It Takes A Village to Raise a Child’ philosophy," noted Charlotte Iserbyt, a former senior policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Education and author of Deliberate Dumbing Down of America.
“This is basically the government schools taking over the duties of families. It’s very scary,” agreed Dr. Karen Effrem, president of Education Liberty Watch.
“At least the House was strong and wise enough not to allow such an amendment,” which she says “turns schools into a second or even first home for children and reduces parents to ‘breeders and feeders’.
“I have been fighting against both the data-mining of students and the psychological profiling of students for many years,” Effrem told CNSNews.com. “This program is horrible because it continues the great expansion of federal psychological profiling of children, and it also will result in a ton of data-mining of students and their families about very non-academic subjects.
“It will not only run your life, but control what your kids are taught,” she said. “A big part of it is the mental health screenings of children and families that really opens the door for a tyrannical imposition of thought and conscience norms by the government.
“The National Center for Education Statistics and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Education are already collecting data on bullying incidents that have to do with perceived gender identity and sexual orientation. And there are already violence prevention programs that talk about kids as potentially violent or mentally unstable if they make statements about LGBT students or religion,” Effrem pointed out.
“Of course, this is incredibly subjective and open to all sorts of political correctness. Who’s going to define what the norms are?” she asked.