K-12 Funding Basics: Understanding Grants

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With most of a school’s given budget going to fund yearly expenses, grants are vital for schools looking to add in additional tools, resources, and technologies. Grant funding can come from the federal budget, or from a private donor. Grants all come with their own rules and regulations in terms of what the money can be spent on, and what reporting schools may need to provide in return. There are two kinds of grants that schools rely on- Competitive and Formula.

Competitive Grants

Competitive grants are awarded based on a school’s application. The school that has the best ideas for how to spend funds, meets the most criteria, or can show the best return on investment will receive the funds. Most privately funded grants are competitive, as are some government funded grants. Discovery Education has some great competitive grants you can learn about here! Because there is no guarantee that a school will win this grant again, they tend to use this funding to purchase bigger one-time expenses (think new tech, professional development, etc.)

Formula Grants

Formula grants are given based on a school’s need or ability to meet certain criteria. Perhaps the most well-known example of a formula grant is Title 1 funding. Title 1 is awarded to schools based on the number of students attending that live below the poverty line. Because this grant is not competitive, schools tend to factor this money into their annual budget, meaning that they spend it more consistently, and on recurring things.

Grant Spending

According to AASA grant funds are spent on a “first in, first out” basis, meaning that all funds from a 2020 grant will need to be spent before schools can dip into 2021 funds. Due to this limitation, it is typical to see schools spending their grant funding conservatively for the first half of the grant term and spending more freely in the second.

In order to make the most of grant funding, schools need to plan larger investments wisely, and give themselves plenty of time for procurement. Many grants are issued in August, meaning that schools will start looking for their next investments in September, and will be ready to buy from April-August.

Curious about where schools can find and apply for grants? Here are some great resources:

https://thejournal.com/articles/list/listings.aspx

https://www.ed.gov/category/subject/grants

Next week are diving in to COVID-19 Relief Funding. Be sure to check it out! 

Sources:

https://www.aasa.org/uploadedFiles/Policy_and_Advocacy/files/SchoolBudgetBriefFINAL.pdf

http://blog.discoveryeducation.com/blog/2008/07/23/current-grant-opportunities/

https://www2.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/index.html, https://thejournal.com/articles/list/listings.aspx

https://www.ed.gov/category/subject/grants

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