Community Schools Toolkit
California funds innovative schools at highest level in nation

School building image with the words "Every community is different. What will yours be like?"

In 2021, Governor Newsom allocated $2.8 billion in the state budget to expand existing community schools and establish new ones. 

The Community Schools Partnership Program is a grant-based program and schools have to apply for the funding. The decision to become a community school is made by the school itself, but the union can play a key role in advocating to become a community school. The monies can be used through 2028. 

“California now has the largest amount of funding in the nation for community schools,” according to CFT President Jeff Freitas.” These funds will assist nearly 1,000 community schools in our state. This is collective bargaining for the collective good,” Freitas said. 


What are Community Schools?

Watch AFT’s short 3-minute video that describes how community schools are public schools that partner with stakeholders to create the conditions students need to thrive.

Community schools aren’t just centers of education; they’re the new heart of the community itself that help create better conditions for both teaching and learning. They’re a place where teachers, families, community members and service providers can come together in coordinated, purposeful and results-focused partnerships. 

Unions have been a key driver in establishing community schools and AFT educators and staff across the nation have been key players in helping plan and develop community schools. Every community school is different because every community is different.

Here’s how community schools are unique and what they have the power to do:

  • Provide a framework for school improvement that taps into our value system and belief that every child deserves a high quality, equitable public education;
  • Help overcome the barriers to learning created by poverty and a lack of opportunities by using and coordinating existing resources so that all children can become career, community, and college ready;
  • Embody solution-driven unionism and have the potential to mobilize members and build ties to the community while fighting back against those who wish to defund, destabilize and privatize public education.

The community school framework employs these fundamental Four Pillars to ensure that they meet the unique needs of their community:

  1. Integrated student supports,
  2. Expanded learning time and opportunities,
  3. Active family and community engagement, and
  4. Collaborative leadership and practice.


San Francisco — Mission High School

Community Schools: Teachers’ Perspectives
In this AFT video, teacher members of United Educators of San Francisco, share how community schools support classroom instruction 

Los Angeles — Felicitas & Gonzalo Mendez High School

A Community School That Honors Its Neighborhood’s Legacy of Educational Justice
In this research brief from the Learning Policy Institute, learn about a community school located in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Boyle Heights that has partnered with United Teachers Los Angeles and more than 40 community-based organizations to transform their high school into a thriving and successful community school. You may also download the Research Brief.


playbook cover

Community Schools Playbook
Community schools provide each and every student with the resources, opportunities, and support that make academic success possible and that create strong ties among families, students, schools, and community. This “Practical Guide to Advancing Community Schools Strategies” provides tools for advancing community schools as a strategy to improve schools, provide more equitable opportunities, and prepare students for success in life and as citizens. 

AFT Community Schools Toolkit
The AFT has a mountain of resources about community schools including case studies and profiles of award-winning community schools representing the best of what community schools have to offer. There are also AFT brochures and articles from American Educator.

California Department of Education
The CDE has developed regulations for the Community Schools Partnership Program. Learn more about the state program.

CFT Newsroom
Find CFT articles about community schools in our Newsroom.