Did you know that charter schools receive millions of dollars each year from competitive federal grants? The Charter Schools Program (CSP) is the only source of dedicated federal funding to support the growth of charter schools around the country, but charter schools that operate as their own local education agencies (LEAs) are also eligible to apply for most of the same competitive federal grants as traditional school districts.
One such program is the Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Incentive grants. TSL grants support the development and implementation of comprehensive performance-based compensation systems or human capital management systems for teachers and school leaders in high-need schools, with a focus on student growth and closing the achievement gap.
Around the country, charter schools have long been innovators in practices around hiring, evaluation, and compensation, and creating rewarding career pathways for teacher leaders. This is evident in TSL grantees: since 2016, at least 22 funded TSL Incentive projects have been led by or included charter schools in consortia, totaling almost $400 million to support charter school innovation.
For the 2023 grant cycle, charter schools received an outsize number of TSL awards: 9 of the 29 grants, totaling $89 million over three years.
Charter school affiliated grantees include:
• Center for Strategic Leadership and Organizational Coherence in partnership with KIPP Public Schools
• LEAD Public School
• Harmony Public Schools
• United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) Charter Schools of Central Florida
• National Center for Hebrew Language Charter School Excellence
• Mastery Charter High School
• Hyde Leadership Charter School-Brooklyn
• International Academy of Flint
• Arkansas Public School Resource Center, Inc.
These federal grant funds will support innovative staffing projects at each of the charter school grantees. Here are a few highlights:
• The Center for Strategic Leadership and Organizational Coherence, in partnership with four KIPP regions, will leverage their $25 million grant to work with two Historically Black Colleges & Universities to help improve the quality of education in KIPP schools. Over the project period, KIPP will launch an evidence-based human capital management system that includes an educator effectiveness model, evaluation plan, and performance-based compensation. The TSL funds will also support educator quality supports, including instructional coaching, a new teacher network, career ladders for teachers, and more. All this work will help raise student achievement and increase equity for the more than 9,000 students served by the four KIPP regions, the majority of whom come from low-income households.
• UCP Charter Schools in Florida will use their $5.1 million TSL grant to support Project ELEVATE, which will focus on recruiting and retaining teachers for high-need schools, developing teacher leadership, and providing mentoring, coaching, and model classrooms to current teachers. UCP currently serves over 2,000 students from pre-K through high school, with a focus on serving the disproportionate number of students with disabilities who are educated in classrooms with their peers. Project ELEVATE will help UCP educators better serve students through a variety of initiatives, including a gamified teacher incentive program, principal academy and residencies, and building instructional leadership teams.
• The Arkansas Public School Resource Center (APSRC), which is also a CSP State Entity grantee, received $14.8 million from TSL to promote educator effectiveness in rural Arkansas. This project will serve more than 20,000 students attending both charter and district public schools in rural Arkansas. APSRC will build on its work from a previous grant and work with a state education service cooperative to implement a human capital management system with performance-based compensation to implement evidence-based strategies to recruit, support, and retain effective teachers. This partnership is an example of how charter and district schools can benefit from shared initiatives and share learnings across public schools.
• These TSL projects exemplify how charter schools can leverage their flexibility and autonomy to innovate, especially around recruiting, developing, and retaining teachers and building a pipeline of effective school leaders.
TSL is just one competitive federal grant that charter school LEAs are eligible for. If you want to be the first to know about new federal grant opportunities, join our mailing list to receive our Weekly Brief newsletter which regularly highlights new grant opportunities.
Learn more about Teacher and School Leader Incentive grants.
Fiona Sheridan-McIver is the director of policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.