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Empowering Educators to Lead: 3 Reasons We Need Pre-Planning Grants for Teachers

Empowering Educators to Lead: 3 Reasons We Need Pre-Planning Grants for Teachers

May 29, 2024

Imagine having a groundbreaking idea for a new charter school, one that could put students in your community on a new academic trajectory. Now imagine spending nights and weekends trying to write a charter application on top of your demanding teaching job, or trying to live off savings from your teacher’s salary while you take a leave of absence to work on your application full-time.  

For too many educators around the country this scenario is all too familiar. Educators may be in the best position to build innovative new schools to meet their communities’ needs, but most teachers don’t have the personal resources to fully devote their time to writing a high-quality charter application.  

Currently, there is no source of consistent public funding to support educators during the application phase of developing a new public charter school. In some cases, philanthropy has stepped in to provide support and incubation for aspiring school leaders, but access to these resources isn’t necessarily distributed equitably. Ultimately, public funding is the only democratic way to support aspiring school leaders.  

One bill currently on the table in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act, will help overcome these challenges by redirecting existing funds for opening charter schools to provide small pre-planning grants to current educators as they develop their charter applications. 

Here are three reasons why we need pre-planning grants for educators who aspire to open new charter schools: 

  1. Supporting a pipeline of diverse and innovative school leaders: Publicly funded pre-planning grants will help level the playing field for aspiring school leaders who may have less access to philanthropy, such as educators from low-income backgrounds, people of color, or those who live in rural areas. Charter schools already employ higher proportions of teachers of color and are more likely to be led by people of color. Pre-planning grants will provide public support to build on that success by supporting a pipeline of educators from diverse backgrounds to launch new, innovative schools. 

  2. Giving educators the resources to develop successful applications: Educators seeking to open charter schools often face a long and complex charter application process. The challenge of preparing a successful application means that an educator with an innovative school idea might not get their application approved because they lack the time and resources to invest in writing a strong application. Writing a successful application requires time, resources, and expert input on topics that are not always an aspiring school leader’s area of expertise, such as procuring a building. Pre-planning grants will give a fair shot to educators who may not have access to philanthropy or have significant personal resources to support the application writing process.  

  3. Setting new schools up for success: A charter application should be a roadmap for strong school culture, curriculum, financials, and more and help a school start strong. Allowing funds already dedicated to supporting new charter schools to be used for pre-planning grants just makes sense. It will give educators the opportunities they need to develop the contents of their applications and consult with experts, such as on legal or financial issues. With resources to support a strong application, a new school, especially one with a new innovative model or serving a high proportion of students with significant needs, will be better positioned to serve kids well during its early years of operation.

Educators are the people best positioned to understand students’ changing needs and to open innovative new schools to meet those needs. The Empower Charter School Educators to Lead Act will provide the public resources needed to develop a charter application, putting educators on the path to becoming school leaders and making a difference for kids. 

Hear more about the importance of pre-planning funds directly from school leaders who navigated the process of launching a new school with and without funding:   

Fiona Sheridan-McIver is the director of policy at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

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