For the purposes of this article, I am going to limit the discussion of educational grants from the perspective of a school district securing funding for programs to supplement the present curriculum. Grants can be used for far more than this, ranging from programs of study for individual students to researchers conducting studies for their various fields.
Defining Educational Grants
The website USA Grant Applications defines educational grants as “free money from either a public or private source that can be used for various educational purposes which does not need to be repaid.” Another website, education.laws.com, has an even simpler definition: ”Grants are streams of funding, offered by a government body or organization.”
Why Are Educational Grants Necessary?
Unfortunately, there are far too many districts and schools that are underfunded. Strapped for cash, school districts will frequently look for alternate sources of funding. Outside of philanthropic contributions (basically unheard of for regular public school districts), grants are the main way that school districts can supplement their present funding.
Cautions and Drawbacks
Grant writing is time consuming and requires a degree of expertise. The best option for a district is to have a contracted grant writer or a supervisor that has grant writing as part of their assigned duties. If neither of these is possible, then it will be extremely difficult for any school or district to put in the necessary time and effort to complete and submit grants. In these cases, it is more worthwhile to attempt to secure smaller grants with a simpler application process.
It also is imperative for an educational grant to harmonize with your curriculum. There is always a danger that you will secure funding for a particular program that does not adequately correspond with your curriculum, rendering its use off-topic and ultimately questionable. Make sure you have researched your desired grant adequate and thoroughly enough to ensure its use can easily flow with your established curriculum. You may want to consider more generalized grants if you are not in a situation where a significant amount of time can be devoted to grant writing.
What Type of Education Grants are Available?
As I stated at the beginning of the article, I am focusing on the type of grants that districts most often utilize. These are most often discretionary grants, which according to the US Department of Education are awarded using a competitive process. Student loans or grants, to help students attend college and formula grants, which use formulas determined by Congress and have no application process are the other two main types of educational grants the Department defines.
K-12 Grants to Consider
Waterford.org outlines some of the most popular educational grants that are sought after. The American Association of Educators Classroom Grant is an educational grant which awards up to $500 to teachers to purchase various classroom materials. This is an excellent grant for schools and districts which give their teachers a limited amount to spend each year on instructional supplies.
The American Association of School Librarians Innovative Reading Grant is a grant geared towards motivating students to read. It assists librarians in putting together a program that targets students struggling to read effectively.
The chain Dollar General has a summer literacy grant which assists districts in setting up summer reading programs for students.
The Honda Community Grant is utilized to secure classroom technology or STEM Programs.
The ILA Regie Routman Teacher Recognition Grant awards $2500 to teachers who can demonstrate that they are enriching their classrooms during the competitive application process.
The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics has a technology grant that can be used to purchase a digital math curriculum and general mathematical resources for their classrooms. The official name of the grant is the NCTM Enhancing Student Mathematics Learning Through the Use of Tools and Technology.
The NEA set up a grant which was used to respond to the loss of learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was set up for the last two summers and assisted in providing resources to students who were identified as in need of remediation. The NEA entitled the grant The NEA Foundation Rapid Response Grant.
Some other organizations which have set up significant educational grants are The National Science Foundation for STEM programs, the Snapdragon Book Foundation for books and other literacy tools to enhance school libraries and literacy programs. The GSA (General Services Administration) has a grant that is used to provide computers to schools in need. Finally, Walmart has general local grants to purchase general supplies for schools.
Most of the grants described here are crafted to keep things as general as possible. That way, districts with a variety of curricula can apply for and feel confident that any awarding of grant funds will provide flexibility as to the specific resources that can be purchased. These grants can provide much needed funding and go a long way in bridging the funding gap that many lower income districts experience.
My advice to local school districts is to aim for these simple grants which increase funding for basic supplies and resources.