Madison, Wisconsin Schools Seek To Take Over Routine Childcare Tasks From Poor Parents

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Four public schools in the Madison, Wis. school district will soon begin providing a plethora of parenting services to students including breakfasts, dinners, doctor’s visits and homework help.

Funding for the “full-service” neighborhood schools will come from a $300,000 grant from the Madison Community Foundation, reports the Wisconsin State Journal.

Actual school hours won’t change. However, the school buildings will open earlier and close much later. The four schools will also start opening on the weekends.

School districts in six U.S. states have been taking up the community school model. The schools are most common in poor urban area where children may not be eating right or have access to healthcare.

The U.S. Department of Education doles out millions of dollars to nine organizations which then fund such schools — after funding their own staffs, of course.

At Longfellow Public School in Milwaukee, for example, a nonprofit called Journey House has used its money and taxpayer funding to construct a $6 million community learning center on site. The center at the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school offers free dinners, after-school field trips, and sports activities.

There’s also assistance for parents seeking their GEDs, reading help for entire families, drug and violence counseling, English-language instruction for immigrant parents and job search help for unemployed parents.

Journey House has a 99-year partnership with the Milwaukee public school.

“It really is at a level, for lack of a better word, of a marriage,” Journey House CEO Michele Bria told the Journal.

Back in Madison, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi praised community schools for offering a second, government home for children.

“The education of our children isn’t just about our schools and what goes on in our schools,” Parisi told the Madison-based newspaper. “It’s about the health of our entire community and making sure that all young people arrive at school ready to learn and having the opportunity to succeed within their homes, within their communities and within their neighborhoods.”

Madison schools superintendent Jennifer Cheatham is also enthusiastic about the four new community schools in her district.

“By better coordinating our efforts (and) creating a quilt of strong neighborhood centers with strong, full-service community schools, we’ll be able to make sure that the families that need coordinated services can actually get them,” Cheatham told the Journal.

The $300,000 Madison Community Foundation is only expected to last for two years. Funding for future community schools beyond that timeframe is completely uncertain.

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Eric Owens