Besides being a grants manager, I have also been a Library Media Specialist. In fact, if I’m really honest with myself, my heart belongs in the library. Contrary to popular opinion, libraries are not dead; in fact, they are becoming more relevant every day as the huge ocean of digital information appears online. Someone has to index it all, and make it more accessible to the public. Enter the librarian!
I try to stay abreast of educational research, when you’re writing grants it’s important to be aware of trends in how we view academic achievement. We are always looking for ways to improve learning, especially among vulnerable populations. That’s why a paper in the Review of Educational Research (March 2015), a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association (likely available through your library), caught my attention this week.
The regulations for Title I grants sit on my desk in two enormous binders. The rules regarding appropriate use of Title I money are complex, but understandable. The key to managing your application budget is to remember the funds are for a certain number of carefully selected students in your district who are least able to fend for themselves, including Special Education students. Special education students are eligible for Title I services on the same basis as all other students. You cannot exclude them just because they are already receiving extra services, as that would be discrimination.
Districts base their allocations for Title I on a strict formula that stems from the number of students receiving free and/or reduced lunch. It boils down to a per pupil allowance, once you have your allocation, you need to sit down and work on your set-asides.
In the blizzard of federal rules, regulations, and allocations for schools, one grant initiative we see is Title III – LEP Grants. These pass-through funds are earmarked for the education of students who are newcomers to our country. They have language challenges and if we don’t have a coordinated program for addressing their language acquisition needs, we all suffer.
Now, before I get going, this blog is not a political forum for discussing issues about immigration and borders, and government responsibilities for managing immigration. The fact is, the kids are here, many have entered this country legally, and their English Language skills need to be evaluated and brought to a level that lets them compete on an equal playing field with other students. They will become productive members of society if we support them now.
As political winds have blown one way and then another over the years, federal funding for schools has changed its tune. In the current polarized environment, there are loud voices calling for the abolition of all funding for schools – don’t be frightened, this is not about to happen.
One of the roles of government in a free society is to protect those individuals who are least able to protect themselves. The federal government has played a large role in helping states, cities and towns educate the kids who need the most support. This has taken the form of Title I, but also, in the world of Common Core and No Child Left Behind, it takes the form of improvement of academic achievement and lifting all children to a place of success. This is altogether right and important.
The federal government has established a School Improvement Grant program that takes this concept to the next level. Before there were standards (some of us remember that educational wild, wild, west), let’s face it, we were graduating kids who couldn’t read. Schools in high poverty areas could not attract the best and the brightest of the teachers who were coming out of college education programs. These schools slipped into a leadership gap, and were allowed to deteriorate, pretty much unchallenged. New regulations and strict enforcement have changed that. Schools still struggle, but the spotlight is on them, we know who you are, and in general, we all want to help.
I’ve talked about working in collaboration with others for planning and seeking grants. In general, I don’t write grants in committee unless there’s a requirement to do so. In all grant projects, you need to sit down with stakeholders in the school community who will benefit from the grant. This is an unavoidable part of preliminary planning, but it’s not the same thing as writing in committee.
Sometimes though, you can’t avoid it, maybe your Superintendent has suggested a collaborative environment for grant writing. She means well, and it can unfold successfully, but it’s not my preferred way to work. There are many reasons for this; the biggest one is avoiding turf wars.
Anyone who puts in hours of work on a grant project needs to be recognized. Sometimes, though, an individual will assert herself early; she needs to have some control, disapproves of just about everything and is a PITD (pain in the derriere). During stakeholder meetings, as you’re selecting committee members, you can get a sense of who is going to be a PITD.
This blog is a free feature of the School Funding Grants Database. I try to provide added value to subscribers, and free trial subscribers by posting grant writing tips and tricks for would-be school grant writing personnel. Sometimes I am guilty of not seeing the forest for the trees. I will get all excited about sharing minutiae of grant writing and grants management without stepping back to reveal the answer to the basic question:
“Where do I find the money?”
The database is a robust resource with access to information currently regarding over 180,000 opportunities representing over $17,000,000,000 in available funding. That’s a lot of money, and the aim is to make the information accessible to you as the grant writing teacher or school district grants manager.
The word collaboration evokes thoughts of harmony, cooperation and productivity.
I admit it, I’m a control freak (who me?) My stomach tightens when I hear the words “let’s collaborate on this grant application”. The speaker invariably means well, and I have worked on grant projects where collaboration was a key factor in successful completion. Many hands make light work, two heads are better than one.
However, I have also seen grant projects stall and become mired in bickering and in-fighting because strong personalities will try to assert themselves and gain ascendancy. It’s human nature. There are ways to avoid this.
In the last article, I talked about grants for “extras”, and as promised, I’m going to tell you about grants for individuals.
Individuals fall into two categories, full or part time teaching staff, and consultants. In big federal and state grants like Title I and Educator Quality, it is expected that you will request funds for staff and professional development consulting personnel. They will caution about this, the people you hire must be aligned with the goals of the grant. There is a person in your district (depending on its size) that prepares those grant application packages. Sometimes it’s the curriculum director. If it’s you, and you are also responsible for writing foundation and corporate grants, you are a busy person. I have been one of those all-encompassing-grants-people, so I speak from some authority.
What are extras you ask? In any school, there is nothing extra. We all work overtime just to provide for the essentials. I remember a time when Christmas was an entire month of frivolity, trees and baubles and plays and art walls, and Santa and ………
We don’t see that much anymore, at least in most public schools. “Time on task” is the new mantra, you see school administrators scowling at class projects that take more than an hour to prepare for the holidays. We have to prepare for the tests, remember?
Ah, the good old days.
There is also the issue of budgets, if there is no money in school budgets for art supplies and musical instruments or even a music teacher; it’s hard to create too much frivolity.
In the New Year, many teachers are between semesters in their teacher training programs. Savvy school district administrators take advantage of this lull in academic rigor to bring in staff development consultants to help champion new initiatives. They want to bring everyone up to speed on changing environments in the classroom, for old teachers and newly minted professionals.
At least they are doing this if they have the funding for it. It never seems to make any difference, in robust budgets or lean years; there are not enough dollars for PD. It really needs to be our first priority and it’s a great way to start a relationship with a foundation. Asking for funds for teacher training shows the grantor that you want to deliver services in a professional and well-advised environment. You can’t embark on a blended learning project if your teachers don’t have a clue what blended learning is or how it can make a difference in the classroom.