California Legislature Adopts Healthy Start Framework for Historic $2 Billion Investment in Community Schools
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 15, 2021
Anna Hasselblad, Public Policy Director
United Ways of California
(Sacramento, Calif.) - Yesterday, both the Senate and Assembly Budget Committees agreed to build on lessons learned from California’s successful Healthy Start program, an integrated model for supporting children in receiving the services they need to thrive through local school-community collaboratives. The Healthy Start program provided grants to schools to develop wrap-around services, yielding dramatic results for children in increased reading and math scores, reduced substance use, and higher graduation rates, from its inception in 1991 until the latter part of 2007-2008, when it was ultimately defunded as a result of the Great Recession and its economic pressures. The Healthy Start program led to the development of similar models, such as community schools, across the state. Now, the Healthy Start framework will be the foundation for the Governor's historic $2 billion proposal for a Community Schools Partnership Program that will transform how child and family-serving systems work together to support healthy development.
Since her swearing-in, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (D-15) has championed the modernization of the Healthy Start program to support families in school and community settings, authoring two bills, AB 875 (2019-20) and AB 1117 (2020-21) to bring back this holistic, community-focused approach to education. Healthy Start, at its heart, aims to enable schools and communities to provide support to children and families so that kids enter the classroom ready to learn so that their other needs (health, mental health, nutrition, housing) are met and do not become obstacles to success for children and teachers. The Healthy Start program provided grants to schools to develop wrap-around services, from its inception in 1991 until the latter part of 2007-2008, when it was ultimately defunded as a result of the Great Recession and its economic pressures.
The Governor’s historic $3 billion proposed investment in Community Schools - which the legislature has reduced to $2 billion in their budget agreement - seeks to build off of our Health Start language and structure. Expressly borrowing from Healthy Start’s history and our bill and budget proposals, the Community Schools Partnership Program, as it is called, would provide grants to schools to provide wraparound supports to students and families centered around schools, including:
- Emphasizing trauma-informed care and services,
- Emphasizing whole-child, whole-family development,
- Ensuring the majority of grants go towards new programs rather than just sustaining existing ones,
- Provide more robust technical assistance to help schools take advantage of new funding streams and programs, and;
- The inclusion of community-based organizations in the grant program language.
Local community collaboratives design their own approach based on specific needs, but will always include social services co-located at school and health/mental health care for the whole family in community settings. These straightforward solutions are the recipe for thriving families and teachers less challenged by unmet needs.
“Today marks a moment of transformation in how California makes good on our promise of whole-child centered, quality education,” said Assemblymember Wicks. “ I am proud to have played a role in moving true systems change forward with a clear and intentional focus on equity and the delivery of much-needed services for children and families. Ensuring trauma-informed practices are woven throughout our health and education systems is a critical component of recovering from COVID-19, but also of addressing head-on the realities of systemic racism, poor health, and poverty.”
This investment in Community Schools is a lifeline for hundreds of thousands of students. Community Schools will partner closely with child-serving systems and community-based organizations to coordinate trauma-informed services on school campuses. Instead of being punished for problems outside of their control, students and families will be referred to the tools and resources they need. Community Schools will fundamentally reshape and improve health, education, and social service delivery for 9 million California children and their families.
“This monumental investment in Community Schools marks a turning point for not only our education system but for the future of all of our child-serving systems. This is one of the most significant steps ever taken by the state to break down barriers and siloes across entire departments to better serve our 5 million students as Healthy Start originally sought to do,” said Peter Manzo, President & CEO, United Ways of California. “Our network of Local United Ways applaud the uplifting of community-based organizations and the pivotal role they play in Community Schools and helping meet the needs of students and their families. We thank the Governor and Legislature for this historic investment in the future of our children and for delivering on their promise to weave equity into the very fabric of our systems. We also want to extend our gratitude and appreciation to our author Assemblymember Wicks and the Children’s Defense Fund - California for their continued commitment to fight for our students and families. We look forward to working with state and local partners to ensure successful implementation in communities across the state.”
“It is a simple concept: trusted community leaders supporting families to receive services close to home,” observed Shimica Gaskins, Executive Director, Children’s Defense Fund-” California. “But the results are dramatic. This investment moves California closer to a continuum of high-quality, trauma-informed mental health and health care for children from birth through age 25. We are grateful for the commitment of our author, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, and our partnership with United Ways of California on reviving this proven approach.”