Three Alabama public charter schools have received federal grants worth more than $1 million each when fully paid. The federal education grants were made available to help those wanting to open or replicate high-quality charter schools. Grants were made to 32 charter schools across the country and are part of a regular federal grant process.
Charter schools are public schools given flexibility in exchange for more accountability. If charter schools do not meet accountability guidelines, they can be closed. It is the first time any charter schools in Alabama have won federal grant money.
The three Alabama charter schools receiving awards are:
ACCEL Day and Evening Academy, Mobile – opened 2017
- 5-year award
- 1st year amount: $558,480
- Total over five years: $1,026,960
University Charter School, Livingston – opened 2018
- 5-year award
- 1st year amount: $483,880
- Total over five years: $1,221,639
Legacy Prep (formerly STAR Academy), Birmingham – opening in fall 2019
- 3-year award
- 1st year amount: $996,336
- Total over three years: $1,115,137
While ACCEL and University Charter School are already open, Legacy Prep is scheduled to open next fall with between 100 and 150 students in grades K, 1 and 2.
Jonta Morris, Founder and Executive Director of Legacy Prep, said she is thrilled to receive the grant funding. “Start-up charters are 100 percent dependent on philanthropic and foundational and loan support,” she said, which is why this grant award is so important.
“Through this grant, we are one step closer to bringing Legacy Prep to life and achieving our vision of providing an exceptional education experience for children,” Morris said. Receiving the federal grant, she said, “also shows us that people want to invest in the Birmingham community and its residents as well as catalyzing public schools of choice.”
Morris said Legacy Prep’s grant money can be used for everything from curriculum, facility renovation if needed, transportation for students, student and staff recruitment, professional development for teachers, classroom furniture and technology.
ACCEL Day and Evening Academy opened in 2017 with 250 students. The school serves high school students that are at risk of dropping out of school or who need supportive environments to graduate.
For ACCEL, “grant funds will be used to develop curriculum, purchase equipment and train staff to achieve our vision of an expanded definition of student success,” Director of Strategic Outcomes Chandra Scott said in a statement to AL.com.
In a press release from U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, University Charter School’s Head of School J.J. Wedgeworth said the school is grateful for the award. “Excited is an understatement,” she added, “and we are looking forward to the limitless possibilities and opportunities that these funds will create for our students, our school and our community.”
“This grant for West Alabama’s University Charter School will help give students the opportunity to excel academically while also building character and responsibility,” said Shelby. “UCS will have a major impact on the development and progress of students in the Black Belt, preparing them for future professional success. It is my hope that the school can serve as a model for further expansion of rural charter schools.”
In a release, Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools said, “These grants are essential to help new public charter schools open and to replicate high-performing schools that are serving kids well.”
According to Rees, more than 7,000 charter schools are operating in 43 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico, serving nearly 3.2 million public school students.