AmeriCorps Provides Vital Support to Nearly 12,000 Schools—So Why Cut It?

Policy & Government

AmeriCorps Provides Vital Support to Nearly 12,000 Schools—So Why Cut It?

By Jim Balfanz     May 31, 2017

AmeriCorps Provides Vital Support to Nearly 12,000 Schools—So Why Cut It?

AmeriCorps member Justin Roias, who spent a year working full-time in a Providence middle school through the federally-funded City Year program, is a clear example of why national service matters. In addition to supporting his mentee Manny’s success in school, Justin formed a strong bond with the student by spending time with him outside of the classroom, playing basketball and walking the halls together.

“He motivates me. He’s the best person I ever met in the world…I have no other people like him…that’s always on me, pushing me,” Manny told the Christian Science Monitor in a moving interview last fall. “Ever since I met with Justin the first time, it was a big difference for me. I felt like he cared for me.”

This June, more than 3,000 City Year AmeriCorps members like Justin, serving in 28 communities across the country, will see their students finish the school year. These AmeriCorps members have spent the entire academic year serving 200,000 students and building positive relationships with thousands of students who need them, in 313 schools nationwide.

Unfortunately, City Year and other AmeriCorps programs are under threat. The White House’s recently released FY18 budget request aims to end eight decades of bipartisan presidential support for national service by proposing to eliminate the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that oversees national service programs. This would eliminate critical capacity from schools across the country that rely on AmeriCorps programs like City Year to help them meet student needs.

Currently, half of national service funding is directed towards efforts to provide children with equitable access to an excellent education. Nearly 12,000 public schools—both traditional and charter—along with parochial schools receive support from national service programs. In addition, one in ten public schools, and one in four high-need public schools, leverages AmeriCorps programs like City Year, Playworks, Reading Corps and Teach For America to accelerate student achievement.

City Year AmeriCorps members work full-time in schools, from before the first bell rings to after the last student is dismissed, providing research-based, integrated academic and social-emotional support to students who need it most. AmeriCorps members provide the additional capacity for schools to strengthen personalized learning approaches and to implement effective early warning systems, which ensure that students get the right interventions at the right time.

Our AmeriCorps members are also uniquely positioned to form positive and caring connections with students who need a tutor, mentor and role model – a student success coach – to build the skills and mindsets to succeed in school and in life. The power of these relationships can be seen in many of the inspirational stories we hear from AmeriCorps members and the students they serve, including stories like Justin and Manny’s.

Most of all, City Year’s work delivers results. A recent study by Policy Study Associates showed that schools that partner with City Year were up to two to three times more likely to improve on math and English assessments. Additionally, a large randomized control study of Diplomas Now, which was founded by City Year, Talent Development Secondary and Communities In Schools, demonstrated a significant reduction in the number of students at risk of dropping out of school.

City Year’s diverse pool of alumni—more than 50 percent of our corps members are young people of color, and 25 percent are first generation college graduates—go on to leadership roles in schools and communities after their year of service. About half of City Year AmeriCorps members express an interest in teaching, and hundreds of our alumni enter traditional and alternative teacher preparation programs each year. The City Year experience also fosters an enduring civic mindset and prepares alumni to work effectively with diverse groups of people. A longitudinal study conducted by Policy Studies Associates found that City Year alumni excelled on every measure of civic engagement as compared to similar service-minded peers.

AmeriCorps programs like City Year are helping to prepare our future workforce and strengthen our communities—and it’s cost-effective. For every federal dollar invested in national service, we see nearly four dollars in returns to society. Because AmeriCorps is based on a public-private partnership model, programs like City Year leverage federal dollars to raise additional funds from private and community partners at rates far exceeding the initial federal investment, maximizing impact.

At a time when our country and community feels more divided than ever, national service can address pressing societal problems, unite diverse Americans, develop the next generation of leaders, while helping our students succeed. That’s why it’s up all of us to call on Congress to continue its bipartisan support of national service by passing a budget that fully funds CNCS, and keep putting students first.

Jim Balfanz is President of City Year, an education organization fueled by national service that is dedicated to helping students and schools succeed. He serves on the Council of Distinguished Educators for The Aspen Institute's National Commission on Social, Emotional, and Academic Development.

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