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Walton Family Foundation Opens Applications for Innovative Schools Program

November 13, 2019
Educators and entrepreneurs with transformative ideas to serve students encouraged to apply for up to $325,000

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Nov. 13, 2019 – The Walton Family Foundation today announced the launch of the third round of its Innovative Schools Program (ISP) grant opportunity. Educators and entrepreneurs with ideas for schools that offer transformative opportunities for students are encouraged to apply for up to $325,000 in funding. More information can be found at this website.

The foundation launched the ISP in 2017 to identify new, exciting school models and leaders. The program is designed to support schools that look and feel truly different, achieve unprecedented outcomes, serve high-need students and embrace analysis of their successes and challenges to share with other schools.

“The ISP is designed to help educators create the schools of their dreams and seed the ideas that will transform education and communities,” said Marc Sternberg, K-12 Education Director at the Walton Family Foundation. “Together with other funders and the teachers, leaders, parents and students we seek to serve, we aim to ensure as many children as possible can access the kind of educational opportunity that is central to the American dream.”

To date, 14 schools received a total of $4 million to open traditional district, public charter and private schools across the country. The 14 schools, selected from more than 250 applicants, are geographically, demographically and pedagogically diverse – offering students and communities everything from a single-class homeschool model to an inclusive environment for neurotypical and special learners. Nearly every ISP grant recipient is a former classroom educator.

Build Urban Prosperity (Build UP), a high school postsecondary hybrid serving students grades nine through 14 in Birmingham, Alabama designed to foster the academic, social and financial capital to support student success, received an ISP grant in 2018. Students participate in a construction apprenticeship program while earning their high school diploma and an associate’s degree. Upon graduation, they become owners of two properties in the Ensley neighborhood, where Build UP is located.

“Bold change in education doesn’t just happen,” said Mark Martin, CEO of Build UP. “Those of us building a new world of educational options are often met with initial skepticism, whether spoken or not. It takes the support of a funder willing to risk a little to move the needle a lot to create the next generation of schools.”

TLC Public Charter School in Orange, California serves elementary school students with a range of learning needs in a fully inclusive setting. The school employs a diverse staff of paraprofessionals and teachers who collaborate to ensure each student experiences a personalized educational setting that works best for them. TLC opened in 2018 with support from a foundation ISP grant.

“Collaboration at TLC is essential for our learning community,” said Jessica Tunney, Founding Principal of TLC Charter School. “Every day, teachers and paraprofessionals come together to debrief successes and challenges, share strategies and new ideas, and stay current with our students’ interests, passions and goals. This allows us to maintain our unique culture – one that wouldn’t be possible without our Innovative Schools Program grant from the Walton Family Foundation.”

The Innovative Schools Program is one of several foundation programs that support innovative educators and entrepreneurs. Through startup grants, more than 2,400 traditional district, public charter and private schools have opened their doors to serve hundreds of thousands of students across the country.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. Three generations of the descendants of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, and their spouses, work together to lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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