Educators in the Los Angeles Unified School District are getting a major boost in their ability to pursue grant funding with the launch this week of Grants HQ, a new program announced by the Los Angeles Fund for Public Education.
Created exclusively for use by the district’s 30,000 educators, the program incorporates a password-protected online database listing available education grants from philanthropic and other sources around the country. It also offers in-person workshops and support for teachers and administrators interested in learning how to fill out grant applications.
Going after extra funding seems especially appropriate for California’s largest school district. In Education Week’s 2014 Quality Counts research report, California was ranked 50th (out of 51 states and the District of Columbia) in per-pupil spending.
“For many LAUSD teachers and schools, grants will make a significant difference in providing the kind of rigorous and enriching education that the system’s 650,000 students want, need and deserve,” said Megan Chernin, chair and CEO of the fund, which builds partnerships to improve educational and social outcomes for students, in the formal announcement of the program.
The opportunities in Grants HQ have been hand-picked by Andrea Kobliner, a veteran grants writer and educator, who has secured more than $400 million in grants for several school districts.
“We hired a guru of grants writing in Los Angeles, who has experience on big federal grants and smaller grants, to be our specialist for the year,” explained Chernin, in a phone interview with Education Week. “She’s gone through all the weeds on this stuff and identified the best grants that, in her mind, would satisfy the interest of LAUSD teachers. She’s updating it all the time.”
News of the grant portal, which will be available for free only to L.A. public schools, has attracted inquiries from independent charter schools, said Chernin. Charter schools within the public school system will have access to Grants HQ, but not unaffiliated charters. Parents have also expressed an interest in writing grants, but thus far the fund is restricting access to LAUSD educators.
“Frankly, because this is so new and we haven’t figured out all areas of interest, we haven’t determined how we might expand it,” she said.
By offering L.A. educators this insider’s approach to grants and how to win them, won’t other California districts, and districts across the country, be at a disadvantage in seeking funding, we asked.
Chernin said the LA Fund’s model is easily replicable. “It’s really not a heavy lift. If you have somebody, like this person,” and support from local funders, an interactive website can be launched anywhere.
To offer a “one-stop shop” in securing grants, the LA Fund is also offering:
- Five one-day intensive grant-writing workshops (of which the first is already full);
- Assistance from a dedicated and experienced grant specialist; and,
- Endorsement letters from the fund for grant applications, signaling that it is a thorough, complete and competitive application.
“It’s kind of an experiment for us, to see how it all pans out and what kinds of success they have,” Chernin said. “We want to see them win those grants, so we can justify keeping this as a permanent program for the LA Fund.”