Federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) and Authorizers
The Expanding Opportunities Through Quality Charter Schools program, commonly referred to as the Charter Schools Program (CSP), was re-authorized through the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015. The collective program includes six distinct grant programs, each with different purposes and target grantees.
THE SIX COMPETITIVE GRANT PROGRAMS OF THE CSP
State Entities (SE) Program
Formerly the SEA Program
Supports state entities (SEAs, Governors, statewide charter school authorizing boards, or charter school support organizations) with funds to provide sub-grants to developers to open, replicate, and/or expand high quality public charter schools.
Replication and Expansion of High-Quality Charter Schools Program (CMO program)
Supports non-profit Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to open one or more new high quality charter schools or significantly expand enrollment.
Charter School Developers Program
In states that do not have a State Entity grant, provides grants to individual charter school developers to open and/or expand a high-quality public charter school.
Credit Enhancement for Charter Schools Facilities Program
Helps financial groups enhance the credit of charter schools so that the charter schools can access private-sector and other non-Federal capital in order to acquire, construct, and renovate facilities at a reasonable cost.
State Charter School Facilities Incentive Grants
Helps states establish and enhance or administer “per-pupil facilities aid” for charter schools. Provided to states on a matching basis, with a timed phased out for each grant.
National Dissemination Grants
Formerly National Leadership Activities Program
Supports dissemination of best practices in the charter sector, with an emphasis on increasing the number of high-quality charter schools.
The State Entity Program is the program most individuals are familiar with. It provides grants to state entities, such as State Education Agencies, who then provide sub-grants to individual charter school developers to start, replicate, or expand quality charter schools. It is the largest program, with the largest potential reach in states all over the country.
A list of states with active grants, through the current State Entity Program or the old SEA program, can be found on the National Charter School Resource Center CSP Data dashboard. On October 3, 2018, entities in eight more states received awards—Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Michigan, New York, and North Carolina. These awards are not yet reflected on the dashboard.
The program has changed a bit over time, significantly in four ways:
- New Applicants (Not just the SEA): Four different types of state entities can apply for a statewide grant and subsequently administer the charter school program in the state: the SEA, the Governor, a statewide charter authorizing board (such as an Independent Chartering Board), or a non-profit charter support organization. The applicant must demonstrate the ability to administer a statewide program that is designed to have a statewide impact on the charter school sector. Only one entity in a state can have an active award, so there won’t be two awards made in a single state.
- A Focus on Quality Authorizing: To receive a grant, a state applicant must demonstrate a commitment to quality authorizing and show how authorizing policies and practices in use in the state uphold that commitment. That includes descriptions of how the state entity will:
- Work with charter schools and authorizers to support students with disabilities and English learners, establish school closure protocols, and ensure that student recruitment and retention practices that promote inclusion of all students;
- Make sure authorizers fulfill their oversight responsibilities, including those related to charter contracts or performance agreements; and
- Provide oversight of authorizers, in accordance with state law.
- Technical Assistance Programming to Support Authorizer Quality: The new program requires state grantees to use not less than 7% of its funding for technical assistance activities geared towards eligible applicants (i.e., new and expanding charter schools) and authorizers. The ESSA statute specifically highlights “improving authorizing quality, including developing capacity for, and conducting, fiscal oversight and auditing of charter schools” as an intended use of these funds.
- For Charter Schools, New Ways to Be Eligible and Use Grant Funds: State entities and individual schools that receive a sub-grant have flexibility in how they use funds and how they may qualify for a grant. This means that schools or activities that may not have previously been eligible for funds may now be eligible for a grant, and vice-versa.
- Funds can be used for replication AND school level expansion. CSP is no longer just for brand new charter school start-ups. Replication covers the opening of additional campuses under a new or existing charter, and expansion is defined as “a significant increase in enrollment or add(ition) of one or more grades.” Great charter school looking to expand may be able to get financial support to do so.
- Funds can be used for new expenses, including some one-time transportation and renovation costs.
- Charters with a weighted lottery, or a matriculation agreement with an affiliated school, may now qualify for a sub-grant. Schools should consult their state CSP administrator to see if they qualify.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OUT YOUR STATE’S CSP GRANT
Get involved and advocate at the state level. CSP is set up so that most of the decisions about CSP activities in a state happen on the ground, made by the state-level organizations that administer these grants.
You can get involved in these state level activities (and decisions), and in the process help your authorizing sector get the most out of this federal investment in charter school authorizing:
- WHO: Figure out if your state has a grant and who administers it.
- WHAT: Reach out to explore what technical assistance the State Entity is planning. Talk with the Project Director and ask if there are opportunities to contribute to their TA planning and development.
- SUGGEST: If you feel that the authorizing community would benefit from something different, talk with the Project Director about your idea and how it would help improve authorizing quality.
- USE: Participate in the programming offered. Give constructive feedback on the programming to your state Project Director.
- PLAN: Ask your state Project Director how authorizers can participate in the next application the State Entity submits to the US Department of Education. Get planning ideas here. If your state does not have a grant, talk with an eligible applicant about applying and get involved in planning!
Want to talk more about CSP and Authorizing? Maybe learn more about what your state is doing, or brainstorm ideas for meaningful Technical Assistance activities? Contact us.