Public Charter Startup Grants

Providing grants to educators to develop and launch new schools

The Walton Family Foundation has been supporting the creation and growth of diverse, high-quality charter schools since 1997 as part of our effort to give all families — especially those with the greatest needs — the opportunity to choose the best options for their children. In our Public Charter Startup Grant program, we focus on supporting high-quality and high-potential charter schools serving low-income children in our target geographies. 

The number of students enrolled in charter schools nationally expanded by 12% a year, on average, between 2006 and 2013, the most recent year with available data. The Foundation has invested more than $385 million into all charter school growth since 1997.

Going forward, the Walton Family Foundation is committed to helping high-performing charter management organizations to expand and replicate what works. It is also committed to investing more into small, independent operators who have new ideas about how to provide high-quality educational options to high-needs students. We believe newcomers with new ideas have great potential to innovate, answer communities’ demands, and help to create a diverse group of high-quality charter schools. 

Paths to Funding Your School Startup

To receive Walton Family Foundation (WFF) Public Charter Startup Grant funding, an applicant may follow one of three paths:

1. Apply to one of our partners — the Charter School Growth Fund, Building Excellent Schools, or the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP). These funds are only available to qualified affiliates of these partners. If you meet the geographic eligibility requirements (please verify that your region is listed here) and are interested in applying, please reach out to your appropriate relationship manager at one of these partner organizations.

2. Apply directly to the Walton Family Foundation and complete each stage of our grant process. We typically focus our grant making on smaller charter school operators; if you represent a large CMO, you might consider applying through one of our partners (see #1). The application process is demanding and time consuming, so please review all of the information on the website before beginning. 

3. Apply to participate in one of the incubator programs that we support, including 4.0 Schools in New Orleans and the Mind Trust in Indianapolis. These organizations help charter operators and other innovators to refine ideas and develop schools.

Qualifying for WFF’s Public Charter Startup Grant program (Option #2 above)

To qualify for a WFF Public Charter Startup Grant, school developers must meet our minimum criteria and draw a majority of students from one of our thirteen target districts. 

Initial qualifying criteria for applicants: 

  • The school must demonstrate strong potential for delivering excellent academic results for K-12 students, as measured by standardized achievement tests.
  • The school must serve a significant low-income student populations (at least 50% of your students must be eligible for free and reduced price lunch). 
  • The school must NOT represent a for-profit entity. 
  • The school must currently be in a "startup" mode, which is up to 15 months before filing for a charter through the school's first year of operations. 
  • The school must draw a majority of its students from one of our targeted districts (see below).

If you are a current WFF grantee, you must be up-to-date on all of our reporting requirements to apply. 

Targeted districts for Public Charter School Grants:

The Foundation’s strategy is to focus its grants on a limited number of districts to make significant changes in those locations. Only public charter schools drawing a majority of their students from the following districts may apply:

  • Arkansas: Any District
  • California: Los Angeles Unified School District [Map of specific boundaries]; Oakland Unified School District
  • Colorado: Denver Public Schools
  • Georgia: Atlanta Public Schools
  • Indiana: Indianapolis Public Schools
  • Louisiana: Orleans Parish
  • Massachusetts: Boston Public Schools
  • New Jersey: Camden City School District
  • New York: New York City
  • Oklahoma: Any District
  • Tennessee: Shelby County Schools
  • Texas: Houston Independent School District; San Antonio Metro Area
  • Washington, D.C.: District of Columbia Public Schools

If you believe you meet our initial qualifying criteria, please complete the online eligibility questionnaire.

Upon receiving your completed eligibility questionnaire, a WFF program officer or grant partner will determine if you qualify for our startup grant program. Eligible applicants will receive a referral to the WFF Public Charter Startup Grant Program from one of our partners [see the list of Walton Family Foundation public charter startup grant partners here], and will be invited to submit an application. WFF partners and staff will review your completed application. Applications that demonstrate a strong potential for delivering excellent academic results for K-12 students will be invited for an interview.