The Walton Family Foundation is to new charter schools what a venture capital fund is to startup companies. As reported by this blog and other sources, Walton has provided grants and in the past, low-interest loans (NO interest, in some cases!) to new charter schools through its Public Charter Startup Program.
The foundation’s recent awarding of a $250,000 grant to Christel House Academy West charter school in Indianapolis, Indiana, gives valuable insight into what this funder looks for in new charter proposals. (See Walton Family Foundation: Grants for Charter Schools).
According to Inside Indiana Business, the Walton Family Foundation was impressed with the holistic model presented by Christel House. The school promises high-quality academic instruction that meets international standards, but it doesn’t stop there.
The school will replicate Christel House Academy South and offer Spanish instruction, an emphasis on technology, and family outreach that includes on-site psychological and social services. The school also will have a full menu of extracurricular offerings, including art, music, and physical education.
What’s more, Christel House will keep its students in school for longer days and a longer school year. The school plans to operate a seven hour school day and a 200-day school year, compared to the traditional 180 days. This longer school day and year will be music to the ears of other funders (Ford Foundation, take note) that contend the traditional school day and year are too short.
All of these features — from the extracurriculars to the extended day and year — are noteworthy, but the key to getting Walton to notice your startup proposal may come down to three simple words: Do what works.
Christel House West based its model on that of its counterpart in south Indianapolis and on successful practices used by other charter schools since the late 1990s. Grantseekers preparing charter school startup proposals should ask themselves such questions as:
“Has this worked in other places?” or “Is there research that supports what I’m doing?”
In Indianapolis, where large numbers of students lack proficiency in reading and math, Christel House Academy West hopes to make a dramatic impact, while providing a nurturing environment for its students.
The $250,000 from Walton will help the school acquire classroom furniture, instructional equipment, software, and office furniture, as well as pay administrative salaries.