The idea of community education has been around for a long time. About 70 Wisconsin school districts sponsor formal community education programs, which includes a person hired to provide leadership and commitment to the Wisconsin Five Components of Community Education.

These components are:

  1. Citizen Involvement

  2. Needs Assessment and Planning

  3. Extended Use of Public Education Facilities

  4. Interagency Coordination and Cooperation

  5. Leadership and Accountability.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction believes that community education can improve quality of life by providing lifelong learning opportunities for all members of the community. Schools can create community through opportunities for active recreation, citizen involvement, informal non-credit courses, and collaborations with other community organizations.

State History of Community Education

Wisconsin was the first state in the nation to pass legislation supporting evening classes and community education ‘type’ programs.  The 1911 legislation supported opening up schools in the evening to encourage adult education and literacy programs.

As years progressed passage of the 1975 Federal Community Education Act occurred.  The Act provided incentive funds for state education agencies to create community education positions at the state level.  Initially it was considered that the position might best be served housed at the State VTAE offices.  However, the Act required that the position be K-12 oriented, so the attention turned to DPI.

When community education was just developing the state advisory council was a key factor in the statewide development of community education.  In addition to their mission to provide a definition, they took on the task of developing an understanding among such agencies as the VTAE system and UW-Extension, among others.  Members of the first councils included some names that would later become synonymous with community education achievements.  They included George Wilson of the Milwaukee Public Schools, Frank Joswiak of the Pulaski Schools, and George Longo, District Administrator for the D.C. Everest Area School District.