The right-wing’s ginned up panic over what’s being taught in our schools has been used to drum up support for charter schools and vouchers and to encourage hardline conservatives to take over local school board to purge schools of a dizzying (and often imaginary) array of left-wing calamities. Things like teaching that slavery existed.

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis was pushing his “Stop WOKE Act” in 2022, he said, “We’re going to be making sure that time in school is being spent learning and not just being targets of indoctrination,” In a campaign appearance in Iowa, Donald Trump promised, “I will bring parental rights back into our school system.”

But there actually is an education movement out there that includes genuine input from parents and families in shaping the education of their children. It’s called community schools, and it’s being implemented in districts all over the country—and showing strong, positive results.

Unlike the phony, headline-hoarding “parental rights” movement of Trump and DeSantis, community schools take into account the broader needs of their student and family populations, responding with real solutions to real issues. And they have led to gains across a range of categories, from increased attendance and teacher retention, to improved test scores and graduation rates.

In the Public Interest, the Network for Public Education, and the Partnership for the Future of Learning have produced a report that explains what the community school approach is and illustrates with real-life examples how it works.

When outreach to Tampa, Florida’s Gibsonton Elementary School families discovered that safety was a major concern of its students and parents, the school organized a successful effort to install streetlights near the campus. McKinley Elementary School in Erie, Pennsylvania, created a “walking school bus” of trained adult volunteers to escort students safely to and from campus, after learning from families that students had to cross dangerous intersections to get to school. After adopting the community school strategy in 2009, Brooklyn Center, Minnesota’s school district launched vision, dental, and mental health clinics and provided free health care not only to students in this school, but also any child who lives in the city.

The new report, “How Community Schools are Transforming Public Education,” contains more than 20 such examples of the community school approach. It is a fascinating read that provides real hope for the future of public education and, by extension, the future of our democracy.


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