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Seven Districts Get Gates Funding for District-Charter Collaboration

Guest blog post by Jaclyn Zubrzycki @jzubrzycki

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced today that seven school districts will receive a total of $25 million in grant money aimed at supporting district-based efforts to foster collaboration and reduce tension between district schools and charter schools. The Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, New Orleans, New York, Hartford, Conn., and Spring Branch, Texas, school districts will receive between $2.2 million and $5 million from the Seattle-based foundation.

The grant recipients will focus on: joint professional development for charter and district teachers; Common Core implementation; personalized learning experiences; universal enrollment systems for all public schools; and common metrics to facilitate clear evaluation of schools. The districts are also to share best practices and resources. Relations between districts and public charter schools are often strained, as the two are sometimes perceived to be in competition with one another for resources and students.

The selected districts are among 16 school systems—the grantees above plus districts in Baltimore; Central Falls, R.I.; Chicago; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; Nashville, Tenn.; Rochester, N.Y.; and, most recently, Austin, Texas,—that have signed district-charter compacts with encouragement from $100,000 grants to each district from the Gates Foundation. Each city's compact is slightly different. The Gates Foundation announced the $100,000 grants for district-charter compacts in 2010, saying that educators need to move beyond the "false debate" of "effective charters versus effective districts." The foundation announced at the time that districts would be eligible for larger grants down the line.

Here are the award amounts by city:

  • New Orleans: $3 million

  • Hartford: $5 million

  • Boston: $3.3 million

  • Denver: $4 million

  • Spring Branch: $2.2 million

  • Philadelphia: $2.5 million

  • New York City: $3.7 million

Catalyst Chicago wrote earlier today about why the Chicago schools did not receive this latest grant and outlined some other districts' plans.

The foundation says it is likely to make another round of similar grants in 2013, focusing specifically on facility use. This seems timely, considering what a hot issue school facilities have been in some large urban districts.

Here's an Education Week Commentary on district-charter compacts from the Gates Foundation's Vicki Phillips, the director of education for the foundation, explaining the work at the beginning of 2011. The Gates Foundation also awarded more than half a million dollars to the NEA Foundation earlier this year for work focused on labor-management collaboration.

By way of disclosure, the Gates Foundation also helps support some coverage of the education industry and K-12 innovation in Education Week.

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