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A Guide to Determining K-12 Grant Eligibility

Oct 15

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Wednesday, October 15, 2014  RssIcon

The landscape of American K-12 education is in flux. The options available to families for educating their children are now more diverse than ever. But what are the differences between these options and how does that relate to grants funding? In effort to provide some clarification, I have outlined a few basic definitions regarding the various K-12 education providers how these different types of providers can receive grant funding from state, federal, and foundation sources.




Public Schools are those that serve the children of a specific community and are maintained at the public's expense through revenue sources like taxes. For this reason, public schools are free for those residing in the boundaries of the community (or district) to attend. Occasionally states will award grants to specific Public Schools, but more often than not, the funding is granted to Local Education Agencies to then dole out funding to specific schools. Foundations are also known to fund projects at schools within the same locality or region.


A Local Education Agency (also known  as an LEA) is a public board of education or other public authority (as determined by the state) which has administrative control over public elementary or secondary schools within a given district. LEAs can be responsible for a single school, but are more commonly associated with several schools within a given area. The key here is that the schools for which the administrative agency oversees are public. This is a term that is common in most grant eligibility descriptions, and it is most frequently  the LEA that must apply for funds on behalf of a specific school. To that end, LEAs are usually able to obtain grant funding from the widest range of sources: state, federal, and foundations.


So now that we've established what constitutes a Public School and a Local Education Agency, let's dive in to where things get a bit more tricky.




Magnet Schools  are schools which focus most learning into one specific content area (e.g. the arts, business, science), or operate based on certain models of learning (e.g. career academies). New students are often required to demonstrate skill or knowledge in the content area prior to acceptance, or they are admitted though a lottery system. These schools are ostensibly created to attract students from diverse social, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. This is largely because Magnet schools are not restricted by the same neighborhood- or city-based geographic boundaries set by standard Public School authorities. That said, because Magnet Schools are often established by a specific district or state education agency, these schools  are still required to report to the area's LEA (just as the standard Public Schools must). As a subsidiary of the LEA, Magnet Schools are usually eligible for the same funding opportunities as basic Public Schools: state and federal funds that are first granted to an LEA, and local foundations.


Charter Schools are public schools which are independently run, meaning that they are free from many of the rules, regulations, and statues that ordinary Public Schools must adhere to. Charter Schools are granted their existence through the State in which they operate and in exchange for the aforementioned leniency, these schools are required to meet higher levels of accountability measures in order to continue functioning. As a result,  Charter Schools are often able and more willing to "take risks" through implementing innovative approaches aimed at increasing student achievement levels.


Most Charter Schools are part of a larger group known as a Charter Management Organization (a non-profit entity that operates multiple charter schools and launches new ones) or CMO. If the Charter School is a member of a CMO, often times the CMO will also hold LEA status over the Charter. In instances of a Charter School operating as a singular entity without a CMO, the specific school is usually granted its own LEA status by the state as part of it's charter.


The education provided at a Charter School is still free to those enrolled, but unlike  Public Schools, new student enrollment is usually determined by lottery once the school reaches capacity. Additionally, Charter Schools, while public, usually receive less or a fixed amount of funding per student when compared to standard public schools. As such, Charter schools usually make use of their non-profit status to secure grant funding from private sources (such as foundations) in order to bolster their programmatic efforts.


Charter Schools come in several different varieties and can focus on either general education or, like Magnet Schools, specific areas of academic focus (e.g. the arts, vocational training, military, and math and science). Currently, 42 states and the District of Columbia have legislation allowing for the creation of Charter Schools.


State grant funding for specific Charter Schools can sometimes be a challenge, as it largely dependent upon who holds the LEA status – the school or the CMO? Regardless, there are several federal grant opportunities for these schools provided by the Department of Education under the umbrella of the Charter School Program (CSP).




Private education is often sought out by families seeking an alternative to the public education options within their locality. The two branches of "private" (or more correctly, non-public) education are described below.


Private Schools are non-publicly supported schools that usually charge tuition to students' families. These schools may have some form of selective enrollment process, and vary in priority. Those which are secular (i.e. non-religious) often emphasize a particular education philosophy/approach to learning (e.g. Waldorf  Schools), focus on special needs (e.g. schools for the blind),  or specialize in a particular subject (e.g. the arts, science and technology). Many of these schools also have the expressed purpose of college preparation. Non-secular private schools, on the other hand, are usually affiliated with a specific faith, denomination, or local religious organization, and this relationship is forefront in the students' learning. There are few state or federal grant opportunities for Private Schools, regardless of religious status, and the majority of grant opportunities available are through foundations and partnership with a local religious organization.


Home Schooling is exactly as it sounds: students are taught by one or both parents, or by tutors through either virtual means or coming to the child's home. Materials for instruction can be purchased or created by the family/tutor and accountability for standards is coordinated through the state in which the family resides. Grant funding for this type of education is entirely restricted to foundations, and often provided as reimbursement to expenses incurred by specific families.




Talk to your school's top administrator! Even if you know your schools' designation (e.g. charter), before seeking information on potential grant opportunities, it is always helpful to know who exactly possesses that often-required LEA status. As most federal and state opportunities are granted to LEAs, whoever holds that title will be the one your school needs to work with in order to apply for funding, so why not start building that relationship now?

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