- Associated Press - Friday, December 4, 2015

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) - Minnesota’s teachers union is proposing that schools be turned into one-stop shops where agencies would offer health care, legal aid and employment help for families.

Education Minnesota held a news conference Thursday calling for the so-called “full-service community schools” in an effort to improve academic outcomes for needy children. The union says the model is a cost-effective solution to close achievement gaps.

The news conference was held at Brooklyn Center Secondary School, where the model has been practiced since 2009. The school has seen significant improvement in attendance, behavior and graduation rates.

“We have a proven way to get results and to close opportunity gaps for our students,” said Carrie Lucking, the union’s policy director.

The state Legislature set aside $500,000 last session, at the union’s urging, to help schools start to move toward the full-service model. Education Department spokesman Keith Hovis said four applications will be chosen from 12 submitted.

The union will seek another $2 million for the idea next year, the St. Paul Pioneer Press (http://bit.ly/1NwlMR8 ) reports.

“There are a lot of schools and districts that are interested in this approach,” union President Denise Specht said.

State House education finance committee chairwoman Rep. Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, said she’d want to see the results of the pilot project before she would support putting more money into it.

“Until some of those results are in, I’d reserve judgment on this,” Loon said.

Brooklyn Center Secondary School has a health clinic, family resource room, college access center, recreation center and an out-of-schools programs office. Parents visit the school for services such as help paying energy bills, tips on writing resumes and legal help for obtaining U.S. citizenship.

Patrice Howard, director of community schools and partnerships for the Brooklyn Center district, said full-service schools help students and families overcome barriers such as homelessness and lack of transportation. She said the only ongoing cost to the school district is her salary.

State Sen. Alice Johnson, DFL-Blaine, tried to get $10 million for the full-service schools effort last legislative session after visiting the Brooklyn Center school. She left the school “awe-struck,” she said.

“People often think this is a job for the parents and the family,” Johnson said. “But if you have a family that is in trauma, without food and (experiencing) violence … there’s just no way.”

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Information from: St. Paul Pioneer Press, http://www.twincities.com

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