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United States Government Accountability Office: 
GAO: 

Report to Congressional Requesters: 

December 2010: 

Charter Schools: 

Education Could Do More to Assist Charter Schools with Applying for 
Discretionary Grants: 

GAO-11-89: 

GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-11-89, a report to congressional requesters. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The number of charter schools is growing, spurred by demand for 
innovation and federal incentives, such as the Race to the Top Fund, 
which favors states supportive of charter schools. However, states 
often define charter schools differently than traditional public 
schools. Some charter schools operate as a school district, while 
others are part of a school district and some are for-profit entities. 
These differences could complicate eligibility determination for 
federal administrators. GAO was asked: (1) To what extent do charter 
schools apply for federal discretionary grant programs and what 
challenges do they face, if any, in doing so? (2) What role has the 
U.S. Department of Education played in helping charter schools 
establish their eligibility for federal discretionary grant programs? 
GAO identified grant programs governmentwide for which charter schools 
are eligible to apply, surveyed a stratified random sample of charter 
school officials, and interviewed federal agency officials. We also 
visited charter schools, school districts, charter school 
associations, and state educational agencies in 3 states. 

What GAO Found: 

Based on our survey of charter schools, approximately 7 percent of all 
charter schools applied for federal discretionary grants during school 
year 2008-2009, the most recent information about grant applications 
available at the time of our survey. The types of charter schools that 
applied differed. For example, 8 percent of charter schools designated 
as their own local educational agency (LEA) applied for grants 
compared to 2 percent of schools that are part of a larger school 
district or LEA. Based on their responses to our survey, some of the 
schools that are part of a larger school district believed they needed 
an LEA designation to be eligible for federal discretionary grants and 
did not apply because of their charter school status. We identified 47 
discretionary grant programs for which charter schools are potentially 
eligible. Both charter schools designated as their own LEA and 
individual charter schools were potentially eligible for the majority 
of the 47 programs. The Department of Education administered 33 of the 
47 programs. Given the range of application rates in 2008-2009, some 
charter schools may be unaware that they can apply directly for these 
grant programs. On the other hand, charter schools that are part of a 
larger LEA were not eligible to apply for grants that did not 
designate a public school or a nonprofit organization as an eligible 
applicant and may not have applied for that reason. In addition to a 
lack of resources and a lack of experienced and knowledgeable staff 
available to prepare competitive grant applications, officials also 
indicated their lack of awareness about the grant opportunities 
available to charter schools was a major reason their school 
infrequently applied for discretionary grants. Several officials we 
surveyed expressed a desire for an improved means of learning about 
grant opportunities that address their schoolís needs. 

While the Department of Education has taken steps to encourage charter 
schools to apply for grants, information about opportunities may not 
reach all charter schools. Education has inserted language into grant 
announcements of 17 of the departmentís 33 grant programs for which 
charter schools are potentially eligible in order to explicitly alert 
those charter schools authorized as LEAs of their eligibility to apply 
for grants. Of the programs for which surveyed charter schools 
applied, most included such language in their grant announcements. 
Education has not taken steps to clarify grant eligibility for charter 
schools that are part of a larger LEA. As public charter schools, 
these schools could apply for grants for which individual public 
schools are eligible. Although Education uses multiple methods to 
publicize grant opportunities, such as the Federal Register, 
[hyperlink, http://grants.gov], and Educationís Forecast of Grant 
Opportunities, these mechanisms are directed toward all schools and do 
not target outreach to charter schools. Furthermore, for 16 of the 33 
grant programs for which charter schools are potentially eligible, 
grant announcements sent to potential applicants through these 
mechanisms do not explicitly identify charter schools as eligible 
applicants. Education has published a guidebook to accessing federal 
programs for charter schools, but charter schools cannot access it 
through the Charter School Programís Web page on Educationís Web site. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO recommends that Education clarify grant opportunities for charter 
schools, highlight charter schoolsí eligibility in relevant grant 
announcements, and post its grant application guidance for charter 
schools on its Web site. Education agreed with our recommendations. 

View [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-11-89] or key 
components. For more information, contact Cornelia Ashby at (202) 512-
7215 or ashbyc@gao.gov. 

[End of section] 

Contents: 

Letter: 

Background: 

Few Charter Schools Apply For Federal Discretionary Grants Despite 
Being Potentially Eligible: 

Education Has Taken Steps to Encourage Charter Schools to Apply For 
Grants, But All Charter Schools May Not Be Reached: 

Conclusions: 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

Appendix II: Federal Discretionary Grant Programs for which Charter 
Schools Are Potentially Eligible: 

Appendix III: Comments from the Department of Education: 

Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

Tables: 

Table 1: Estimated Percentage of Charter Schools that Applied for 
Federal Discretionary Grants during School Year 2008-2009, by School 
Characteristic: 

Table 2: Federal Discretionary Programs Potentially Available to 
Charter Schools Funded in Fiscal Year 2008, by Administering Agency: 

Table 3: Number of Identified Federal Discretionary Grant Programs 
Available to Charter Schools, by Agency and Eligible Applicant: 

Table 4: Number of Federal Discretionary Grant Applications Submitted 
during School Year 2008-2009 by Surveyed Charter Schools: 

Table 5: Percentage of Charter Schools Indicating Selected Challenges 
as a Major Reason the School Did Not Pursue Federal Discretionary 
Grants during School Year 2008-2009: 

Table 6: Programs that Explicitly Include Eligibility Language for 
Charter Schools in Grant Announcements and Those that Do Not, by 
Department of Education Office: 

Table 7: Charter School Population, Sample Size, Responses, Out-of- 
Scope, and Response Rate, by Stratum: 

Table 8: Criteria for Selecting Charter Schools: 

Table 9: Federal Discretionary Grant Programs For Which Charter 
Schools Are Potentially Eligible and Level of Fiscal Year 2008 Program 
Funding: 

Figures: 

Figure 1: LEA Status in States with Operating Charter Schools: 

Figure 2: Improving Literacy through School Libraries Program Grant 
Application and Award Process: 

Figure 3: Formula Grant and Discretionary Grant Funding Flows: 

Figure 4: Estimated Percentage of Charter Schools That Directly 
Applied for Federal Discretionary Grants during School Year 2008-2009: 

Figure 5: Characteristics of Charter Schools that Were Awarded and 
Those that Were Denied a Federal Discretionary Grant in School Year 
2008-2009: 

Figure 6: Number of Education Grant Programs for Which Surveyed 
Charter Schools Applied by Existence of Charter School Eligibility 
Language: 

Abbreviations: 

CCD: Common Core of Data: 

CSP: Charter Schools Program: 

DOL: Department of Labor: 

Education: Department of Education: 

EMO: educational management organization: 

ESEA: Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965: 

GEAR UP: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate 
Programs: 

IDEA: Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: 

ITEST: Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers: 

KIPP: Knowledge is Power Program: 

LEA: local educational agency: 

NCRR: National Center for Research Resources: 

NEA: National Endowment for the Arts: 

NIAID: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: 

NOAA: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 

OESE: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education: 

OELA: Office of English Language Acquisition: 

OII: Office of Innovation and Improvement: 

OPE: Office of Postsecondary Education: 

OSDFS: Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: 

Resource Center: National Resource Center for Charter School Finance 
and Governance: 

SEA: state education agency: 

SEPA: Science Education Partnership Award: 

SPECA: Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education and 
Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants: 

[End of section] 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

December 7, 2010: 

Congressional Requesters: 

From about 3,000 charter schools in school year 2003-2004 to almost 
5,000 in school year 2008-2009, the number of charter schools in the 
United States continues to grow. Spurring this growth are parents' and 
others' desire for schools that reflect their vision and federal 
incentives, such as the recent $4 billion Race to the Top competitive 
grant fund, which favor states that encourage the growth of high 
performing charter schools. While charter schools are public schools 
that operate free from certain state and local regulations that 
traditional schools are subject to, there is concern that charter 
schools may be ineligible for or have difficulty accessing federal 
program resources that traditional public schools receive. Because 
charter schools are a relatively new phenomenon in public education, 
little was known about the extent to which they apply for and receive 
these resources, and it was also not known if charter schools face 
challenges when they are applying that traditional public schools do 
not. 

Because charter schools are a relatively recent phenomenon, the 
Department of Education and other federal agencies may not have 
developed consistent policies toward them, especially with respect to 
grant opportunities. Further, charter schools are often defined 
differently by states than traditional public schools, which may 
create some confusion when a federal agency is determining a charter 
school's eligibility for discretionary grants. For example, unlike 
traditional public schools, which are part of a larger local 
educational agency (LEA) or school district, some states allow charter 
schools to operate as their own LEA, while others establish charter 
schools as schools within an LEA. In addition, depending on state 
legislation, charter schools may be set up as nonprofit organizations. 
Should these schools choose, they may apply for status as tax-exempt 
organizations under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). These 
distinctions complicate charter school eligibility determinations for 
federal discretionary grant programs. Because of these complexities, 
federal agencies may not provide charter schools grants for which 
traditional public schools and school districts are eligible. 

In response to congressional interest in charter schools' access to 
federal funding, we addressed the following questions: (1) To what 
extent do charter schools apply for federal discretionary grant 
programs and what challenges do they face, if any, in doing so? and 
(2) What role has the U.S. Department of Education played in helping 
charter schools establish their eligibility for federal programs? 

To determine the extent to which charter schools apply for federal 
discretionary grant programs and any challenges charter schools have 
faced, we surveyed a stratified random sample of 640 charter schools 
in the 40 states and the District of Columbia with operating charter 
schools.[Footnote 1] The survey response rate was 78 percent. The 
survey collected data on the federal discretionary grant programs to 
which charter schools applied in school year 2008-2009, the most 
recent information about grant applications available at the time of 
our survey, the outcome of the applications, schools' LEA, nonprofit 
and for-profit status, school size, and the demographic 
characteristics of their students. We analyzed whether charter 
schools' characteristics, such as size of student body and years of 
operation were related to whether or not they applied for federal 
grants. We also conducted site visits to New York City, New York; 
Columbus, Ohio; and Miami-Dade, Florida; school districts to interview 
representatives of the school districts and charter schools about 
charter schools' experience in applying for federal grants. To 
identify federal discretionary grant programs for which charter 
schools may be eligible, we matched and merged two governmentwide 
lists of federal K-12 education grant programs and screened them to 
select only discretionary grant programs that provided funding, which 
yielded a list of about 90 programs.[Footnote 2] We obtained the lists 
of federal K-12 education grant programs from the National Resource 
Center for Charter School Finance and Governance and GAO's prior work. 
[Footnote 3] To confirm the programs on our list, we contacted agency 
officials who managed the programs. To further refine the list, we 
developed a questionnaire to collect basic descriptive information for 
each program from the responsible agency official. In addition to 
collecting program information, the questionnaire allowed us to 
confirm, exclude, and add programs based on consultations with agency 
officials. Our final list contained 47 programs for which charter 
schools are potentially eligible. To determine what role Education has 
played in helping charter schools establish their eligibility for 
federal programs, we interviewed agency officials with oversight 
responsibility for the federal discretionary grant programs identified 
in study question 1.[Footnote 4] We asked about any experience they 
had with charter school applicants to the programs, outreach they had 
conducted to inform charter schools about their eligibility, and any 
challenges charter schools faced in establishing their eligibility for 
the programs. We also reviewed relevant federal laws and regulations. 
Appendix I provides a detailed description of our methodology and its 
limitations, as well as our scope. 

We conducted this performance audit from October 2009 to December 
2010, in accordance with generally accepted government auditing 
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit 
to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on the audit objectives. 
We believe that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for 
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

Background: 

Charter schools are public schools created to address a number of 
concerns with the educational system. Intended as a means to address 
failing schools and to encourage innovation in public education 
policy, charter schools operate with more autonomy than traditional 
public schools. In exchange, they are held accountable for meeting the 
terms of their charters in order to remain open. 

States began adopting charter school laws in the early 1990s, 
beginning with Minnesota in 1991. States allow charter schools 
flexibility in their operation for agreeing to accomplish specific 
academic goals contained in their charters. The specifics of these 
arrangements vary, as each state sets up its own charter school 
structure and guidelines, and states have continued to revise them 
over time. During school year 2008-2009, 40 states and the District of 
Columbia had state laws authorizing charter schools.[Footnote 5], 
[Footnote 6] 

Charter School Structure and Operation: 

Oversight authority for charter schools may rest with several 
entities, including state boards of education, which set educational 
policy, and state departments of education, which implement those 
policies. In addition, some states have created charter school 
offices, housed in the state department of education, that support and 
advocate for charter schools. States specify which entities within the 
state can authorize the establishment of a charter school, such as 
state departments of education, state boards of education, local 
educational agencies, institutions of higher education, and municipal 
governments. Some states have also created independent charter school 
boards that can authorize charter schools in the state. 

Depending on the state, a wide range of individuals or groups, 
including parents, educators, nonprofit organizations, and 
universities, may apply for permission to operate a charter school. 
The charter document, agreed upon by the applicants and the 
authorizer, defines specific academic goals and outlines school 
finances and other operational considerations. In some states, a 
single charter may cover the establishment of multiple schools. Once 
charter schools are in operation, the authorizer is responsible for 
monitoring school performance and has authority to close the school or 
take other actions if academic goals or state financial requirements 
are not met. 

States' Definitions of Charter Schools' Status: 

States define charter school status in different ways. For example, 
unlike traditional public schools that are part of a larger LEA, 
consisting of multiple schools, some states establish charter schools 
as their own LEA. Other states require them to be part of a larger 
LEA, while still other states allow charter schools the option of 
being either a distinct LEA or part of a larger LEA. Further, some 
states allow charter schools to be their own LEA for some purposes and 
part of a larger LEA for others. Figure 1 shows the designation of LEA 
status in states with operating charter schools. 

Figure 1: LEA Status in States with Operating Charter Schools: 

[Refer to PDF for image: U.S. map] 

Charter schools are their own LEA: 
Connecticut; 
Delaware; 
Indiana; 
Michigan; 
Minnesota; 
Missouri; 
New Jersey; 
North Carolina; 
Ohio. 

Some charter schools are their own LEA and some are part of a larger 
LEA: 
Arkansas; 
Arizona; 
California; 
Georgia; 
Idaho; 
Illinois; 
New Mexico; 
Texas; 
Wisconsin. 

Charter schools are their own LEA for some purposes and part of a 
larger LEA for others: 
District of Columbia; 
Louisiana; 
Massachusetts; 
New Hampshire; 
New York; 
Oklahoma; 
Pennsylvania; 
Utah. 

Charter schools are part of a larger LEA: 
Alaska; 
Colorado; 
Florida; 
Hawaii; 
Iowa; 
Kansas; 
Maryland; 
Mississippi; 
Nevada; 
Oregon; 
South Carolina; 
Tennessee; 
Virginia; 
Wyoming. 

State does not allow charter schools: 
Alabama; 
Kentucky; 
Maine; 
Montana; 
Nebraska; 
North Dakota; 
South Dakota; 
Vermont; 
Washington; 
West Virginia. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from GAO survey of charter school state 
agency officials; Map Resources (map). 

Note: GAO's survey of charter school state agency officials was 
conducted for prior work, reported in GAO, Charter Schools: To Enhance 
Education's Monitoring and Research, More Charter School-Level Data 
Are Needed, GAO-05-5, (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 12, 2005). The survey 
data were updated for this report. 

[End of figure] 

Depending on state legislation, charter schools may be set up as 
nonprofit organizations. Should these schools choose, they may apply 
for status as tax-exempt organizations under IRS section 501(c)(3). 
Nonprofit status presents another avenue for charter schools applying 
for federal discretionary grant funds. 

There are two types of federal grants--formula and discretionary--
which differ in their grant application and award process.[Footnote 7] 
For example, with education-related formula grants, in most instances 
the entity designated as the SEA--usually the state department of 
education--applies for and administers funds allocated by a federal 
agency in accordance with a distribution formula prescribed by law. 
SEAs then disburse funds to school districts and schools on the basis 
of a formula or other criteria. However, with discretionary grants, 
entities that meet eligibility criteria established by law or 
regulation apply and are awarded grants on the basis of a competitive 
process. The steps for preparing and submitting a federal 
discretionary grant application, and the criteria for making grant 
awards, are available from the federal program office.[Footnote 8] 
Figure 2 shows the grant application and award process for one federal 
discretionary grant program, the Department of Education's Improving 
Literacy through School Libraries program. 

Figure 2: Improving Literacy through School Libraries Program Grant 
Application and Award Process: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Department of Education: 
Drafts and posts grant announcements: 
Announcements include: 
* Application instructions; 
* Application timeline; 
* Grant purpose; 
* Eligible applicants; 
* Available funds; 
* Estimated number of awards. 

Local Educational Agencies (LEA) and other applicants: 
Prepare and submit applications. 

Department of Education: 
Reviews applications based on published criteria; 
Criteria include: 
* Meeting the purpose of the statute; 
* Need for school library resources; 
* Use of funds; 
* Use of scientifically based research; 
* Broad-based involvement and coordination; 
* Evaluation of quality and impact. 
Makes award decisions; 
Notifies all applicants of award decisions. 

Local Educational Agencies (LEA) and other applicants: 
Receive notification of award decisions. 

Source: GAO analysis of Educationís Improving Literacy Through School 
Libraries Program. 

[End of figure] 

For education-related discretionary grant programs, eligible 
applicants likely will include local educational agencies, individual 
public schools, nonprofit organizations, or partnerships comprised of 
multiple eligible entities. Charter schools that are their own LEA may 
be eligible to apply directly to a federal agency for a federal 
discretionary grant. Charter schools that are part of a larger school 
district must apply through their school district for discretionary 
grants that designate LEAs, but not individual schools, as eligible 
applicants. However, charter schools within a district may apply 
directly to a federal agency for discretionary grants that designate 
public schools as eligible applicants. In states that establish 
charter schools as nonprofits, these schools may apply for 
discretionary grants that designate nonprofits as eligible applicants, 
as well. 

Once a grant award is made, federal funding follows different paths to 
charter schools depending on the type of grant. For formula grants, 
such as those authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act 
of 1965 (ESEA) Title I, Part A and the Individuals with Disabilities 
Education Act (IDEA), Education makes grant payments to the SEA 
grantee. The SEA then distributes formula grant funding directly to 
qualifying charter school LEAs. School districts also receive formula 
grant payments from the SEA and distribute the funds to qualifying 
charter schools that operate within their district and are not 
distinct LEAs. For discretionary grants, the administering federal 
agency makes payments directly to successful applicants of grant 
competitions, which may include charter school LEAs, individual 
charter schools, or nonprofits. Charter schools that are part of a 
larger school district receive federal discretionary grant payments 
from their school district, if the school district wins a grant 
competition and if the school district has made provision for charter 
schools in the grant application. If charter schools that are part of 
a larger school district win grant competitions for which individual 
schools are eligible applicants, those charter schools receive grant 
payments from Education (see figure 3). 

Figure 3: Formula Grant and Discretionary Grant Funding Flows: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Formula Grants: 
ESEA Title I part A and IDEA Federal funds distributed by state 
governments: 
Federal agencies: to: 
State education agency: to: 
Local educational agency (LEA); Individual schools (acting as LEA). 

Discretionary Grants: 
Federal funds distributed directly by federal agencies on a 
competitive basis: 
Federal agencies: to: 
State education agency[A]. 

Source: GAO analysis. 

Note: On the discretionary grant side of the figure, the size of some 
icons for LEAs and individual schools acting as an LEA was reduced to 
include greater numbers of them, indicative of the number of potential 
applicants. 

[A] SEAs also are eligible for some discretionary grants. 

[End of figure] 

Few Charter Schools Apply For Federal Discretionary Grants Despite 
Being Potentially Eligible: 

In School Year 2008-2009, Approximately 7 Percent of Charter Schools 
Applied for Federal Discretionary Grants: 

Although charter schools were potentially eligible for a variety of 
federal discretionary grants administered across several agencies in 
school year 2008-2009, most did not apply for them. Based on our 
survey of charter schools, we estimate 7 percent of charter schools 
applied for federal discretionary grants during that school year (see 
figure 4).[Footnote 9] 

Figure 4: Estimated Percentage of Charter Schools That Directly 
Applied for Federal Discretionary Grants during School Year 2008-2009: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration and pie-chart] 

Charter schools applied as: 
* A public school designated as an LEA; 
* A public school that is part of a larger LEA; 
* A nonprofit organization. 

Did not apply for federal discretionary grants: 87%; 
Directly applied for federal discretionary grants: 7%; 
Did not know if school applied: 6%. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO charter school survey data. 

[End of figure] 

Charter schools designated as an LEA, those with large student 
populations, and those in operation for a relatively longer time had 
significantly larger percentages of grant applicants (see table 1). 
According to our survey, approximately 8 percent of charter schools 
designated as their own LEA applied for grants, compared to an 
estimated 2 percent for schools that are part of a larger LEA. 
Officials from charter schools that are part of a larger LEA most 
frequently indicated that their lack of LEA designation was a major 
reason they did not apply for federal grants. This may suggest that 
some officials of charter schools that are part of a larger LEA are 
unaware that they may apply to many federal programs as a public 
school or a nonprofit organization. On the other hand, charter schools 
that are part of a larger LEA may not have applied for discretionary 
grants because they were not eligible to apply if the grant did not 
designate a public school or a nonprofit organization as an eligible 
applicant. 

Similarly, the percentage of applicants was higher for schools with a 
student population exceeding 400 students, compared to smaller schools 
serving fewer than 200 students. Several school officials we surveyed 
and visited specifically mentioned their school's small size has 
discouraged them from applying for grants, in part because they 
perceived that their small school could not compete against applicants 
serving more students, such as traditional school districts. Further, 
charter schools that had been in operation for 7 or more years had 
significantly higher percentages of applicants versus schools that had 
been open for less than 3 years. 

Charter schools serving certain special populations also had higher 
levels of applicants. As shown in table 1, charter schools with either 
low-income student populations or minority student populations 
exceeding 75 percent of their total population had significantly 
higher percentages of applicants than schools with low-income or 
minority student populations below 35 percent. This may reflect the 
relatively high number of discretionary grant programs that focus on 
serving special populations, including low-income and minority 
students. 

Table 1: Estimated Percentage of Charter Schools that Applied for 
Federal Discretionary Grants during School Year 2008-2009, by School 
Characteristic: 

LEA status: 

School characteristic: The charter school is designated as its own 
LEA*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 8%. 

School characteristic: The charter school is part of a larger LEA*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 2. 

501(c)(3) status: 

School characteristic: The charter school is set up as a 501(c)(3) 
organization; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 7. 

School characteristic: The charter school is not set up as a 501(c)(3) 
organization; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 4. 

Charter school size: 

School characteristic: Large (over 400 students)*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 12. 

School characteristic: Small (under 200 students)*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 4. 

Years in operation: 

School characteristic: Over 7 years*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 8. 

School characteristic: Less than 3 years*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 4. 

Proportion of low-income students: 

School characteristic: Charter schools with 75 percent or more*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 13. 

School characteristic: Charter schools with less than 35 percent*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 5. 

Proportion of minority students: 

School characteristic: Charter schools with 75 percent or more*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 13. 

School characteristic: Charter schools with 35 percent or less*; 
Percentage of schools that applied for at least one grant: 4. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO charter school survey data. 

Legend: 

* = differences in the percentage of charter schools applying for 
federal discretionary grants were statistically significant (p<.05 
level). 

[End of table] 

Although our survey results suggest most charter schools do not apply 
to federal discretionary grant programs, they are potentially eligible 
for a variety of such programs.[Footnote 10] We identified 47 federal 
discretionary grant programs for which charter schools are potentially 
eligible.[Footnote 11] The programs are administered by 10 federal 
agencies to which Congress provided $2.3 billion during fiscal year 
2008 (see table 2). The Department of Education administered 33 of the 
47 programs and those programs were provided $1.8 billion in that 
fiscal year. Appendix II contains the complete list of federal 
discretionary grant programs we identified as being potentially 
available to charter schools. 

Table 2: Federal Discretionary Programs Potentially Available to 
Charter Schools Funded in Fiscal Year 2008, by Administering Agency: 

Agency: Department of Agriculture; 
Total number of programs: 3; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $46.6 million. 

Agency: Department of Commerce; 
Total number of programs: 1; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $9.7 million. 

Agency: Department of Education; 
Total number of programs: 33; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $1.777 billion. 

Agency: Department of Labor; 
Total number of programs: 1; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $58.0 million. 

Agency: Environmental Protection Agency; 
Total number of programs: 1; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $3.4 million. 

Agency: Health and Human Services[A]; 
Total number of programs: 4; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $159.5 million. 

Agency: NASA; 
Total number of programs: 1; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $14.0 million. 

Agency: National Endowment for the Arts; 
Total number of programs: 1; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $6.7 million. 

Agency: National Science Foundation; 
Total number of programs: 1; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $99.3 million. 

Agency: Executive Office of the President; 
Total number of programs: 1; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $90.0 million. 

Agency: Total; 
Total number of programs: 47; 
FY 2008 appropriations or allocations: $2.264 billion. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO federal agency survey data. 

[A] Head Start, a program for which charter schools are potentially 
eligible, was not included in our analysis because opportunities to 
compete for Head Start grant funding occur on an infrequent basis, 
according to agency officials. In fiscal year 2008, the total level of 
program funds provided to Head Start by Health and Human Services 
totaled $6.9 billion. 

[End of table] 

Although we found a difference in their application rates, both 
charter schools that are designated their own LEA and charter schools 
that are part of a larger LEA are potentially eligible for the 
majority of the 47 grant programs we identified. Nearly all of the 47 
programs identify LEAs as eligible applicants, so charter schools that 
are designated as their own LEA may apply directly for those grants 
(see table 3). In addition, over two-thirds of the programs also 
specify public schools or nonprofit organizations as being eligible. 
For those programs, charter schools that are part of a larger LEA 
would also be eligible to apply directly because of their public 
school or nonprofit status. Yet, our survey results show a 
significantly lower percentage of charter schools that are part of a 
larger LEA apply for grants compared to those that are their own LEA. 
It is unclear why charter schools that are part of a larger LEA apply 
for these grants less often, but it is possible they are unaware that 
there are opportunities to apply directly for some grants and that 
they do not have to rely solely on the larger LEA. However, charter 
schools that are part of a larger LEA were not eligible to apply for 
the 8 discretionary grants that did not designate a public school or a 
nonprofit organization as an eligible applicant and may not have 
applied for that reason. 

Table 3: Number of Identified Federal Discretionary Grant Programs 
Available to Charter Schools, by Agency and Eligible Applicant: 

Agency: Department of Agriculture; 
Public schools: 3; 
LEAs: 2; 
Nonprofit organizations: 3; 
For-profit organizations: 1. 

Agency: Department of Commerce; 
Public schools: 1; 
LEAs: 1; 
Nonprofit organizations: 1; 
For-profit organizations: 1. 

Agency: Department of Education; 
Public schools: 19; 
LEAs: 33; 
Nonprofit organizations: 19; 
For-profit organizations: 9. 

Agency: Department of Labor; 
Public schools: 1; 
LEAs: 1; 
Nonprofit organizations: 1; 
For-profit organizations: 1. 

Agency: Environmental Protection Agency; 
Public schools: 1; 
LEAs: 1; 
Nonprofit organizations: 1; 
For-profit organizations: 0. 

Agency: Health and Human Services; 
Public schools: 4; 
LEAs: 4; 
Nonprofit organizations: 4; 
For-profit organizations: 2. 

Agency: NASA; 
Public schools: 1; 
LEAs: 1; 
Nonprofit organizations: 1; 
For-profit organizations: 0. 

Agency: National Endowment for the Arts; 
Public schools: 1; 
LEAs: 1; 
Nonprofit organizations: 1; 
For-profit organizations: 0. 

Agency: National Science Foundation; 
Public schools: 1; 
LEAs: 1; 
Nonprofit organizations: 1; 
For-profit organizations: 1. 

Agency: Executive Office of the President; 
Public schools: 1; 
LEAs: 1; 
Nonprofit organizations: 1; 
For-profit organizations: 1. 

Agency: Total; 
Public schools: 33; 
LEAs: 46; 
Nonprofit organizations: 33; 
For-profit organizations: 16. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO federal agency survey data. 

[End of table] 

Our survey results also suggest that although several federal agencies 
offer grants for which charter schools are potentially eligible to 
apply, most charter schools submitted grant applications for programs 
administered by the Department of Education.[Footnote 12] Table 4 
shows the grants applied for by the 41 schools that indicated in our 
survey that their school had applied for discretionary grants during 
school year 2008-2009.[Footnote 13] 

Table 4: Number of Federal Discretionary Grant Applications Submitted 
during School Year 2008-2009 by Surveyed Charter Schools: 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Elementary and Secondary Education: Improving Literacy through 
School Libraries; 
Number of applications: 9. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Elementary and Secondary Education: Early Reading First; 
Number of applications: 6. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Elementary and Secondary Education: Indian Education - 
Demonstration Grants for Indian Children; 
Number of applications: 2. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Elementary and Secondary Education: Advanced Placement Incentive 
Program; 
Number of applications: 1. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Elementary and Secondary Education: Impact Aid Discretionary 
Construction Grants Program; 
Number of applications: 1. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of English Language Acquisition: Foreign Language Assistance Program; 
Number of applications: 4. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Carol M. White Physical Education 
Program; 
Number of applications: 7. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Safe Schools - Healthy Students 
Initiative; 
Number of applications: 4. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Readiness and Emergency Management for 
Schools; 
Number of applications: 3. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Elementary and Secondary School 
Counseling Program; 
Number of applications: 1. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Mentoring Programs; 
Number of applications: 1. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education, Office 
of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: Partnerships in Character Education; 
Number of applications: 1. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Education: Other 
Education programs[A]; 
Number of applications: 7. 

Agency, office, and program name: U.S. Department of Labor, Employment 
and Training Administration: YouthBuild; 
Number of applications: 1. 

Agency, office, and program name: National Science Foundation, 
Directorate for Education and Human Resources: Innovative Technology 
Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST); 
Number of applications: 1. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO charter school survey data. 

Note: Responses of 41 school officials who indicated in our survey 
that their school applied for discretionary grants during school year 
2008-2009. Numbers do not sum to 41 because schools may apply for more 
than one grant. 

[A] Seven school officials we surveyed indicated their school had 
applied for a federal discretionary grant administered by Education, 
but either did not provide a specific program name, or provided one 
that could be attributed to more than one Education discretionary 
grant program. One of these programs was administered by the Office of 
Safe and Drug-Free Schools. The office of the other six programs was 
not identified. 

[End of table] 

Although we heard from charter school officials we interviewed during 
our site visits that educational management organizations (EMO) 
provided valuable assistance with federal discretionary grant 
applications, our survey data suggests that some charter schools 
received assistance from EMOs, but most did not.[Footnote 14] EMOs are 
for-profit or nonprofit organizations that operate both traditional 
public and charter schools, according to terms specified in a contract. 

With respect to application outcomes, we estimate that at least one- 
quarter of charter schools that applied for federal discretionary 
grants during the 2008-2009 school year received an award of grant 
funds.[Footnote 15] None of the charter school officials we surveyed 
reported their federal discretionary grant program application was 
denied because the administering agency determined that charter 
schools were not eligible for the program. Likewise, none indicated 
they were denied funding because the administering agency determined 
charter schools cannot be considered a public school or an LEA and, 
thus, are ineligible to apply. Of those surveyed charter schools that 
applied for federal discretionary grants and were denied funding, most 
indicated it was due to the administering agency determining that 
other applicants were more qualified for the funding. Figure 5 
illustrates the composition of these 41 charter schools with regard to 
several characteristics. 

Figure 5: Characteristics of Charter Schools that Were Awarded and 
Those that Were Denied a Federal Discretionary Grant in School Year 
2008-2009: 

[Refer to PDF for image: series of pie-charts] 

LEA status: 

33 of the schools operated as independent LEAs: 
Awarded at least one grant: 12; 
Denied at least one grant: 19; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 2. 

4 were part of a larger LEA: 
Awarded at least one grant: 3; 
Denied at least one grant: 1; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 0. 

3 had other LEA status[A]: 
Awarded at least one grant: 0; 
Denied at least one grant: 3; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 0. 

School size: 

22 of the schools were large (More than 400 students): 
Awarded at least one grant: 10; 
Denied at least one grant: 12; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 0. 

11 were medium (200 to 400 students): 
Awarded at least one grant: 4; 
Denied at least one grant: 7; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 0. 

8 were small (fewer than 200 students): 
Awarded at least one grant: 2; 
Denied at least one grant: 4; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 2. 

Low-income student population: 

28 of the schools had a high percentage (75% or more of students): 
Awarded at least one grant: 10; 
Denied at least one grant: 17; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 1. 

6 had a medium percentage (36% to 74%): 
Awarded at least one grant: 5; 
Denied at least one grant: 1; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 0. 

7 had a small percentage (35% or less): 
Awarded at least one grant: 1; 
Denied at least one grant: 5; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 1. 

Minority student population: 

32 of the schools had a high percentage (75% or more of students): 
Awarded at least one grant: 13; 
Denied at least one grant: 18; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 1. 

3 had a medium percentage: (36% to 74%): 
Awarded at least one grant: 0; 
Denied at least one grant: 2; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 1. 

5 had a small percentage (35% or less): 
Awarded at least one grant: 2; 
Denied at least one grant: 3; 
Both awarded and denied at least one grant: 0. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO charter school survey data. 

[A] Three charter schools were in states that allow charter schools 
the option of being a distinct LEA or part of a larger LEA. 

[End of figure] 

Charter Schools Did Not Apply for Grants Mostly Due to a Lack of 
Resources and Limited Awareness about Grant Opportunities: 

Charter school officials indicated that their lack of resources, such 
as staff and time, and their limited awareness about grant 
opportunities were major reasons their school did not pursue federal 
grants during school year 2008-2009 (see table 5). 

Table 5: Percentage of Charter Schools Indicating Selected Challenges 
as a Major Reason the School Did Not Pursue Federal Discretionary 
Grants during School Year 2008-2009: 

Challenge: The school lacked the resources (e.g., staff, time) to 
apply for federal funding; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 44%. 

Challenge: The school lacked awareness about many of the federal 
programs potentially available to charter schools; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 40%. 

Challenge: The school determined it did not meet the eligibility 
criteria for many of the federal programs; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 29%. 

Challenge: The school lacked guidance on how and/or when to apply for 
many of the federal programs; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 26%. 

Challenge: The complexity of the application process for many of the 
federal programs prevented the school from applying; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 24%. 

Challenge: The school could not apply directly for many of the federal 
programs because the school is not designated as a local educational 
agency for such purposes; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 22%. 

Challenge: The school lacked the resources to fulfill the record 
keeping requirements associated with the funding for many of the 
federal programs; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 22%. 

Challenge: The school considered applying for many of the federal 
programs, but did not think it would win the grant; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 13%. 

Challenge: The funding offered by many of the federal programs did not 
align with the school's mission; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 9%. 

Challenge: The school did not need the funding offered by many of the 
federal programs; 
Percentage of schools indicating challenge is a major reason it did 
not apply for grants: 6%. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO charter school survey data. 

[End of table] 

With respect to a lack of resources, our survey results were often 
supported by comments from charter school officials. Several officials 
we surveyed and visited mentioned their school currently lacks 
experienced and knowledgeable staff available to competitively apply 
for and administer grant funds. In many cases, constrained charter 
school budgets exacerbate the challenge of employing staff to carry 
out grant-writing duties. Many school officials we spoke with 
mentioned that federal, state, local, or private funding is often 
barely sufficient to cover school costs and some reported their school 
or other schools in their area were experiencing budget shortfalls. 
Several officials reported that, as a result of limited funds, their 
school cannot afford to hire staff to prepare grant applications, or 
in some cases it has had to reduce available staff. Education 
officials we interviewed also noted that insufficient resources 
discourage charter schools from applying for federal grants. 

Several charter school officials reported their existing staff cannot 
devote time and effort to grant writing in light of their many other 
administrative duties. Some believe federal programs are often better 
suited for larger LEAs consisting of many schools, as opposed to 
individual charter schools, because those LEAs may be more likely to 
have a team of people dedicated to writing and administering grants. 
One school official noted that even if a charter school is designated 
as its own LEA, it may not fully operate in the same fashion as a 
multischool LEA due to its limited staff. Indeed, while charter 
schools designated as their own LEA are able to apply directly for 
federal grants, similar to multischool LEAs, approximately half of 
such schools reported their lack of resources is a major reason their 
school does not pursue grants. 

Moreover, several charter school officials we visited spoke about the 
time and effort required to apply for federal grants and said that the 
cost in terms of resources typically outweighs the potential benefit 
of the grant award. Some officials said, in addition to the resources 
needed to apply for grants, the subsequent management of grant funds 
received must be considered. One official noted that, in addition to 
the existing oversight required for the federal formula grant funds 
that his charter school currently receives, the amount of oversight 
required for certain discretionary grants would overburden his 
school's resources. Another official told us that if a school in her 
state receives more than $500,000 in federal grants, it is subject to 
audit requirements.[Footnote 16] She said small charter schools with 
limited administrative capacity often view these types of requirements 
as an impediment to applying. Some charter school officials told us 
that private fundraising or grants from private entities, such as 
foundations, may be more attractive to charter schools than federal 
funding, in part due to fewer oversight requirements. 

In addition to limited resources, our survey results show that a 
general lack of awareness about the federal grant opportunities 
potentially available to charter schools is a major reason many 
charter schools do not pursue grants. However, our survey also 
indicates that this perceived lack of awareness exists even though 
many school officials report they periodically receive information 
from various entities, including their state department of education 
and their state charter school association, about federal 
discretionary grant opportunities. Moreover, approximately 45 percent 
of the charter school officials that indicated that a lack of 
awareness about federal programs was a major reason they did not apply 
for grants, also reported that they periodically receive information 
about discretionary grant opportunities from the U.S. Department of 
Education.[Footnote 17] 

Several charter school officials we surveyed expressed a desire for an 
improved means of learning about grant opportunities that address 
their school's needs. Some suggested e-mail could be used to inform 
schools about available grants. Some officials suggested that the 
creation of a centralized location, such as a Web site, would enable 
their school to access grant information specifically tailored for 
charter schools. 

Education Has Taken Steps to Encourage Charter Schools to Apply For 
Grants, But All Charter Schools May Not Be Reached: 

Education Has Clarified Charter Schools' Eligibility in some Grant 
Announcements: 

According to our review of Federal Register notices, Education has 
inserted language clarifying charter school LEA eligibility into grant 
announcements for 17 of the 33 discretionary grant programs for which 
charter schools are potentially eligible.[Footnote 18] Of the five 
Education offices with programs for which charter schools are 
potentially eligible, four included eligibility language explicitly 
mentioning charter school LEAs in some of their grant announcements. 
Of the offices, the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools (OSDFS) has 
the largest percentage of programs that explicitly include charter 
schools in grant eligibility language (see table 6). 

Table 6: Programs that Explicitly Include Eligibility Language for 
Charter Schools in Grant Announcements and Those that Do Not, by 
Department of Education Office: 

Education office: Office of English Language Acquisition: 

Program: Foreign Language Assistance Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Native American and Alaska Native Children in School Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Education office: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education: 

Program: Advanced Placement Incentive Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Early Reading First Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Improving Literacy Through School Libraries Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Teacher Incentive Fund; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Alaska Native Education; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Migrant Education Even Start; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Impact Aid: Discretionary Construction Grant Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education 
Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Smaller Learning Communities Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Education office: Office of Innovation and Improvement: 

Program: Arts in Education: Model Development and Dissemination 
Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Professional Development for Arts Educators Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Teaching American History Grant Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Transition to Teaching Grant Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Full-Service Community Schools Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: School Leadership Grant Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Voluntary Public School Choice Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Women's Educational Equity Act Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Education office: Office of Postsecondary Education: 

Program: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate 
Programs (GEAR UP); 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: International Research and Studies Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Talent Search Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Upward Bound Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Education office: Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools: 

Program: Carol M. White Physical Education Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Programs; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Grants for Integration of Schools and Mental Health Systems; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Grants for School-Based Student Drug-Testing Programs; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Partnerships in Character Education Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Safe Schools - Healthy Students Initiative; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
Yes. 

Program: Cooperative Civic Education and Economic Education Exchange 
Program; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Program: Mentoring Programs; 
Grant announcement identifies charter schools as eligible applicants: 
No. 

Source: GAO analysis of Federal Register grant announcements. 

[End of table] 

The eligibility language generally states that charter schools 
considered to be LEAs under state law are eligible to apply for the 
grant. This language provides clarification on charter school 
eligibility for both federal program administrators that review 
charter school grant applications and charter schools that are 
considering applying for the grants. Surveyed charter schools applied 
to 9 of the 17 Education discretionary grant programs with eligibility 
language explicitly mentioning charter schools. In contrast, they 
applied for 2 of the 16 Education discretionary grant programs without 
the eligibility language (see figure 6). 

Figure 6: Number of Education Grant Programs for Which Surveyed 
Charter Schools Applied by Existence of Charter School Eligibility 
Language: 

[Refer to PDF for image: horizontal bar graph] 

Education grant programs with charter school eligibility language: 
Grants for which surveyed charter schools did not apply: 8; 
Grants for which surveyed charter schools applied: 9. 

Education grant programs without charter school eligibility language: 
Grants for which surveyed charter schools did not apply: 14; 
Grants for which surveyed charter schools applied: 2. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO charter school survey data and Federal 
Register grant announcements. 

[End of figure] 

However, none of the officials we interviewed reported that Education 
has taken steps to clarify grant eligibility for charter schools that 
are part of a larger LEA and wish to apply for grants for which 
individual public schools are eligible. 

Most of the other agencies with programs for which charter schools may 
be eligible did not take any actions that would assist charter school 
applicants, such as including language in grant announcements that 
explicitly identifies charter school LEAs as eligible applicants, 
according to agency officials. The National Endowment for the Arts 
(NEA) and the Department of Labor (DOL) are the exceptions. NEA added 
language to the Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth grant 
solicitation that explicitly identifies charter schools as eligible 
applicants. With respect to the YouthBuild[Footnote 19] program, 
charter schools were concerned that students who had dropped out of 
traditional public schools and re-enrolled in an alternative school 
such as a charter school program were not eligible to participate in 
YouthBuild. Congress added language to DOL's appropriations acts that 
allowed the YouthBuild program, for program years 2008-2010 and each 
program year thereafter, to serve students who have dropped out and re-
enrolled in an alternative school as long as the re-enrollment is part 
of a sequential service strategy. 

Officials we interviewed at agencies other than Education did not 
identify any eligibility issues for charter school applicants and, 
consequently, did not request assistance from Education. This is 
consistent with our previous finding that few charter schools applied 
to grant programs outside of Education and no charter school officials 
reported being denied funding because the administering agency 
determined that charter schools were not eligible applicants. 

Education Uses Multiple Methods to Publicize Grant Opportunities, but 
Few Target Charter School Applicants: 

Education officials we interviewed reported that the Department 
publicizes grant opportunities through several notification mechanisms 
to all potential applicants, but few officials reported outreach 
targeted specifically at potential charter school applicants. 
Education's primary mechanisms for publicizing grant opportunities 
include the Federal Register, http://grants.gov, and Education's 
Forecast of Grant Opportunities. Several officials also reported that 
their offices maintain a listserv through which they can disseminate 
grant announcements to interested parties. 

Education also prepared Accessing Federal Programs: a Guidebook for 
Charter School Operators and Developers for charter schools but the 
guidebook is not posted on the CSP's Web page on Education's Web site, 
http://www.ed.gov.[Footnote 20] The guidebook gives an introduction to 
the grant funding process, provides profiles of programs that charter 
schools could apply to, and lists resources such as federally funded 
technical assistance providers. 

Some Education offices also hold grant application workshops to 
explain the application process to potential applicants. The Office of 
Innovation and Improvement (OII) uses these workshops as an 
opportunity to explain how charter schools might apply for grants as 
an LEA. OII, which administers almost a quarter of Education's 
programs for which charter schools may be potentially eligible, also 
gives presentations on grant opportunities and the application process 
at national conferences for charter schools. However, officials we 
interviewed at Education and other federal agencies noted that their 
program offices are careful not to give preferential treatment to any 
applicant or group of applicants in order to ensure a fair competition. 

Officials at charter schools we visited reported that Education 
sometimes provides feedback on grant applications that were denied 
funding. Feedback was important to charter schools because it helps 
them decide whether to apply for grants in the future. 

Education Offices Confer with Education's CSP When Eligibility Issues 
Arise: 

Education officials we interviewed said that they confer on a case-by- 
case basis with the CSP, which is charged with supporting the creation 
and development of high quality charter schools, when issues arise 
regarding charter school eligibility for grant programs. For example, 
OSDFS reported that charter school applicants have had difficulty 
providing documentation of their LEA status. OSDFS officials consulted 
with the CSP in order to provide guidance to applicants. A CSP 
official suggested that charter schools that are applying for federal 
grant programs ask their authorizer for a letter including 
confirmation that it is a charter school, when the charter school 
started, its LEA status, and status as a nonprofit organization. 

Conclusions: 

Charter schools' accelerating growth, reinforced by federal government 
initiatives such as the Race to the Top program, has increased their 
share of the public school population to 5 percent. Charter schools' 
growth also has the potential to increase competition for federal 
grants. As the charter school population grows, the Department of 
Education will need to re-examine its efforts to ensure that charter 
schools are aware of the opportunities for federal grant funds that 
are available to them and that they are able to compete effectively in 
the federal discretionary grant award process. Education and a few 
other agencies already have taken steps to facilitate charter schools' 
access to some discretionary grant programs, but more effort is needed 
to reach charter schools that are unaware of federal discretionary 
grant opportunities or that lack the resources and expertise to apply, 
particularly in competition with large resource-rich school districts. 
Without more targeted information about grant opportunities, charter 
schools may not identify the discretionary grants at Education and 
other federal agencies for which they may qualify. Such information 
may alert smaller charter schools or those with more narrowly focused 
missions to pursue funds that they would ordinarily overlook. On the 
other hand, the complexity of the grant application process and the 
record keeping requirements for many of the federal discretionary 
grants may make some of them unsuitable for charter schools with 
limited resources, even with assistance from Education. However, 
charter schools must have information about the discretionary grants 
available to them in order to make decisions about whether applying 
for those grants is in their best interest. 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

To further publicize grant opportunities for charter schools seeking 
federal assistance and to help strengthen charter schools' management 
capacity to pursue grant opportunities, we recommend that the 
Secretary of Education: 

1. Clarify the federal discretionary grant opportunities for which 
charter schools are potentially eligible. For example, using existing 
grant notification mechanisms, Education might develop one link on the 
department's Web site to all federal discretionary grants for which 
charter schools are potentially eligible, governmentwide. 

2. Require all pertinent Education discretionary grant program offices 
to add text to the grant announcement stating that charter schools 
meeting the relevant eligibility criterion are eligible to apply for 
the grant. 

3. Require that the CSP post the guidance for applying for federal 
grant programs that it developed for charter schools on the 
department's Web site. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

We provided a draft of the report to the Department of Education for 
review and comment. Education agreed with our recommendations and 
stated the actions that the department intends to take to address 
them. Specifically, to ensure that all discretionary grant notices for 
programs for which charter schools are potentially eligible explicitly 
recognize charter schools' eligibility, Education intends to add text 
to all of the department's pertinent discretionary grant announcements 
stating that charter schools meeting the relevant eligibility 
criterion are eligible to apply for the grant. Education also plans to 
encourage other federal agencies identified in the report to identify 
charter schools as eligible applicants in the relevant grant 
application notices. To further publicize the federal grant 
opportunities for which charter schools are potentially eligible, 
Education has tasked the National Charter School Resource Center, a 
technical assistance center, with distributing grant notices to all 
charter schools, using a list of all charter schools the Center is 
compiling. The Center also will post grant notices on its Web site and 
Education will link its Charter Schools Program Web page to the 
Center's Web site as well. Concerning our recommendation that the CSP 
post the guidance it developed for charter schools about applying for 
federal grant programs on the department's Web site, Education said 
that the Center is updating that guidance and will post it on the 
Center's Web site. Education also will use the Center's Web site to 
highlight the federal discretionary grant application experience of 
small charter schools that have won grant awards. Our study found that 
small charter schools are less likely to apply for discretionary 
grants. In addition, although charter schools' access to federal 
formula grant funds was not addressed in this report, Education stated 
that the department is strengthening its oversight of state 
educational agencies' role in ensuring that new or expanding charter 
schools receive their appropriate share of federal formula grant funds 
in a timely fashion. 

Education also commented on two of our findings. With respect to our 
finding that at least one-quarter of charter schools that applied for 
federal discretionary grants during the 2008-2009 school year received 
an award of grant funds, Education commented that this percentage is 
higher than the percentage of all applicants that were awarded 
discretionary grants by Education. Education stated that this outcome 
indicates great potential for charter schools as they apply at higher 
rates. Education also noted that our analysis of discretionary grant 
programs did not include Education's CSP and the 21ST Century 
Community Learning Centers program. However, as we explain in the 
introduction to the report and in appendix II, we focused on 
discretionary grant programs for which both charter schools and 
traditional public schools compete for funding. Because the CSP grants 
target only charter schools and the 21ST Century Community Learning 
Centers program is a federal formula grant program, these two programs 
did not meet our criteria for inclusion. 

Education also provided technical comments, which have been 
incorporated in the report as appropriate. Education's comments are 
reproduced in appendix III. 

We are sending copies of this report to the Secretary of Education, 
relevant congressional committees, and other interested parties. The 
report also is available at no charge on the GAO Web site at 
[hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you or your staff have any questions about this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-7215 or ashbyc@gao.gov. Contact points for our 
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on 
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made major contributions 
to this report are listed in appendix IV. 

Signed by: 

Cornelia M. Ashby: 
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: 

List of Requesters: 

The Honorable George Miller: 
Chairman: 
Committee on Education and Labor: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable John P. Kline: 
Ranking Member: 
Committee on Education and Labor: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Shelley Berkley: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Rob Bishop: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Charles Boustany, Jr. 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Yvette Clarke: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Danny K. Davis: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Vernon Ehlers: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Virginia Foxx: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Raul M. Grijalva: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Ruben E. Hinojosa: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Peter Hoekstra: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Rush D. Holt: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Carolyn McCarthy: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Howard P. McKeon: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Donald Payne: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Tom Price: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable John P. Sarbanes: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Robert C. Scott: 
House of Representatives: 

The Honorable Carol Shea-Porter: 
House of Representatives: 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Scope and Methodology: 

This appendix discusses in detail our methodology for examining 
charter schools' experience applying for federal discretionary grant 
programs and the assistance, if any, that the U.S. Department of 
Education (Education) has provided to charter schools or other federal 
agencies to help charter schools address any eligibility issues that 
arise. The study was framed around two questions: (1) To what extent 
do charter schools apply for federal discretionary grant programs and 
what challenges do they face, if any, in doing so? (2) What role has 
the U.S. Department of Education played in helping charter schools 
establish their eligibility for federal programs? 

We used separate sources of data for each study question, including a 
survey of a stratified random sample of 640 charter school officials; 
site visit interviews with officials in school districts, charter 
schools, charter school associations, and state education agencies in 
New York, Ohio, and Florida; two lists of governmentwide K-12 
education programs for which charter schools are potentially eligible; 
a survey of federal officials responsible for the K-12 education 
programs; and interviews with Department of Education officials having 
oversight responsibility for the K-12 education programs and their 
counterparts in 9 other federal agencies. Before deciding to use one 
of the lists of K-12 education programs--a list developed by the 
National Resource Center for Charter School Finance and Governance--we 
conducted a data reliability assessment. We discuss our assessment 
procedures and steps we took to mitigate any data limitations below, 
as part of the methodology for determining the extent to which charter 
schools apply for federal discretionary grant programs. We conducted 
descriptive analyses of the charter school and federal program 
official survey data, a synthesis of the site visit data, and 
qualitative analysis of the interviews with federal officials having 
oversight responsibility. We also reviewed relevant federal laws and 
regulations. 

Survey of Charter School Officials: 

To obtain national-level information on charter schools' experiences 
applying to federal grant programs and to learn more about any 
challenges charter schools may face when applying, we conducted a Web- 
based survey of a probability sample of officials from charter schools 
that were in operation during school year 2008-2009. 

The target population consisted of the 4,856 charter schools operating 
during the 2008-2009 school year in the 40 states with operating 
charter schools and the District of Columbia. We developed our 
sampling frame from the U.S. Department of Education's Preliminary 
Common Core of Data (CCD) 2008-2009 school file. On the basis of 
analysis of these data, we determined this source to be adequate for 
the purposes of providing a sampling frame. 

The survey sample design was a stratified random sample of charter 
schools selected from the population of 4,856 charter schools. Each of 
the charter schools in the population was assigned to one of five 
groups--strata--and sample charter schools were selected from each of 
these strata. We selected all the largest charter schools--those with 
at least 2,000 students--and a random sample of schools from each of 
the remaining four strata, as summarized in table 7. The remaining 
four strata were defined based on the composition of the local 
educational agency (LEA) that contained the charter school. One such 
stratum was composed of schools which are separate LEAs for some 
purposes and part of an LEA for other purposes. The remaining schools 
were assigned to one of three strata depending on the makeup of their 
"parent" LEA. We obtained 492 usable responses for an overall 
(weighted) response rate of 78 percent.[Footnote 21] In addition, we 
determined that 29 of the selected schools were out-of-scope for our 
survey because the school was determined not to be a charter school, 
or the school was not in operation during the 2008-2009 school year. 

Table 7: Charter School Population, Sample Size, Responses, Out-of- 
Scope, and Response Rate, by Stratum: 

Stratum: Charter schools with at least 2,000 students; 
Population/universe: 30; 
Sample size: 30; 
Responses: 23; 
Out-of-scope: 0; 
Weighted response rate: 77%. 

Stratum: Separate LEA for some purposes and part of a larger LEA for 
other purposes; 
Population/universe: 555; 
Sample size: 141; 
Responses: 111; 
Out-of-scope: 2; 
Weighted response rate: 79%. 

Stratum: Single-charter school LEA; 
Population/universe: 1,481; 
Sample size: 159; 
Responses: 126; 
Out-of-scope: 7; 
Weighted response rate: 79%. 

Stratum: All-charter school LEA in multiple-school LEA; 
Population/universe: 734; 
Sample size: 148; 
Responses: 101; 
Out-of-scope: 6; 
Weighted response rate: 68%. 

Stratum: Charter schools and other types of schools in multiple school 
LEA; 
Population/universe: 2,056; 
Sample size: 162; 
Responses: 131; 
Out-of-scope: 14; 
Weighted response rate: 81%. 

Stratum: Total; 
Population/universe: 4,856; 
Sample size: 640; 
Responses: 492; 
Out-of-scope: 29; 
Weighted response rate: 78%. 

Source: GAO analysis of Education and GAO charter school survey data. 

[End of table] 

All estimates produced from the sample and presented in this report 
are for the estimated target population of 4,856 charter schools 
operating during the 2008-2009 school year, the school year for which 
the most recent information about grant applications was available at 
the time of our survey. Because we followed a probability procedure 
based on random selections, our sample is only one of a large number 
of samples that we might have drawn. Since each sample could have 
provided different estimates, we express our confidence in the 
precision of our particular sample's results as a 95 percent 
confidence interval (e.g., plus or minus 6 percentage points). This is 
the interval that would contain the actual population value for 95 
percent of the samples we could have drawn. For this report, all 
percentage estimates based on this survey of charter schools have 95 
percent confidence level of plus or minus 6 percentage points or less, 
unless otherwise noted. 

To develop the survey questions, we reviewed prior GAO studies on 
charter schools and existing studies on charter school structure and 
operation. We also interviewed charter school officials and 
representatives of selected charter school management organizations 
and charter school associations, including the Director, Regional 
Leadership Team, Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Foundation; 
President, Academica Corporation; Policy Director, National Alliance 
for Public Charter Schools; Policy Director, National Association of 
Charter School Authorizers; and a Senior Consultant, Public Impact. 

The survey was administered between November 2009 and June 2010. We 
directed the survey to the person at each charter school who was most 
knowledgeable about the school's funding and instructed them to 
confer, as necessary, with other school personnel to answer the 
questions. In many cases, the charter school principal completed the 
survey. In some instances, the school's business manager or financial 
director did so. To maximize response, we sent periodic follow-up e-
mails to all schools that had not responded to the survey by our 
deadline. 

In addition to the reported sampling errors, the practical 
difficulties of conducting any survey may introduce other types of 
errors, commonly referred to as nonsampling error. For example, 
differences in how a particular question is interpreted, the sources 
of information available to respondents, or the types of people who do 
not respond can introduce unwanted variability into the survey 
results. We included steps in the survey design, data collection, and 
data analysis to minimize such nonsampling errors. 

To increase the response rate for this survey, we developed and 
administered a follow-up telephone interview to Web-based survey 
nonrespondents. The questionnaire for the telephone interview 
consisted of a subset of questions from the Web-based survey that were 
most relevant to our study's objectives. To assist us with the follow-
up telephone interviews, we acquired the services of a professional 
services firm already under contract to GAO. We divided the sample of 
nonrespondents into two groups, with one group containing school 
officials who had partially completed the Web-based survey and the 
other group containing those who had not begun the survey. GAO staff 
made repeated call attempts to school officials in the first group and 
interviewed available officials. The professional services firm's 
survey research staff made repeated call attempts to school officials 
within the second group and conducted telephone interviews with 
available officials. GAO staff and the professional services firm 
staff conducted calls for a 4-week period from May to June 2010. Data 
collected from both the Web-based survey respondents and telephone 
interview respondents for this subset of questions constitute the 
survey data used for this report. 

In addition, we took steps to clarify questions to ensure that survey 
questions would be correctly interpreted by respondents. For example, 
during its development, we pretested our Web-based questionnaire with 
six charter school officials from across the United States. We 
conducted these pretests to ensure that the respondents understood the 
questions and could provide the answers to them and the questions 
could be completed in a reasonable amount of time. Following each 
pretest, the survey underwent additional, mostly minor, revisions. 
Similarly, to minimize nonsampling error with respect to our follow-up 
telephone interview questionnaire, we made only minor wording changes 
to selected questions. 

While we did not validate all of the information that charter school 
officials reported through our survey, we took several steps to ensure 
that the information was sufficiently reliable for the purposes of 
this report. For example, we reviewed all federal grant program names 
that respondents reported as being programs for which their school 
applied. We did not accept federal formula grant programs, state 
programs, and programs that otherwise could not be verified as federal 
discretionary grant programs to which charter schools can directly 
apply. Data results, including those for other associated questions, 
were adjusted accordingly. 

An additional source of nonsampling error can be errors in computer 
processing of the data and statistical analysis. All computer programs 
relied upon for analysis of this survey data were independently 
verified by a second analyst for accuracy. 

Site Visit Selection, Data Collection, and Analysis: 

To obtain information on charter schools' experience applying for 
federal program funds, we made site visits to charter schools, school 
districts, and charter school associations and state educational 
agencies. We visited three locations: New York, New York; Columbus, 
Ohio; and Miami-Dade County, Florida. We selected these locations on 
the basis of variation in LEA structure and geographic location. 
Within each state, we selected charter schools that represented 
variation with respect to use of an educational management 
organization (EMO), grade level and enrollment level, percentages of 
minority and low-income students, and Title I status, as indicated in 
table 8. At some charter schools, representatives of the school's EMO 
provided their perspective on the decision to apply for federal 
discretionary grant funds. We also met with officials from two school 
districts in Florida and conducted telephone interviews with state 
officials in New York and Florida to learn more about their role in 
distributing federal funds to charter schools. 

Table 8: Criteria for Selecting Charter Schools: 

State: Florida; 
Use of EMO: 2 use an EMO; 2 do not use an EMO; 
Grades served: 2: K-5; 1: 6-8; 1: 6-12; 
Enrollment level: 2 over 400; 1: 200 to 399; 1 under 200; 
Percentage of minority students: 3 over 75%; 1: 33-74%; 
Percentage of low-income students: 1 over 75%; 1: 33-75%; 2 under 33%; 
Title I school: 2 Title I; 2 not Title I. 

State: New York; 
Use of EMO: 2 use an EMO; 2 do not use an EMO; 
Grades served: 1: K-8; 1: 1-8; 1: 5-8; 1: 9-12; 
Enrollment level: 2 over 400; 2: 200 to 399; 
Percentage of minority students: 4 over 75%; 
Percentage of low-income students: 3 over 75%; 1 unknown; 
Title I school: 4 Title I. 

State: Ohio; 
Use of EMO: 2 use an EMO; 1 does not use an EMO; 
Grades served: 1: K-5; 1: 5-8; 1: 9-12; 
Enrollment level: 1 200 to 399; 2 under 200; 
Percentage of minority students: 1 over 75%; 1: 33-75%; 1 under 33%; 
Percentage of low-income students: 1: 33-74%; 2 under 33%; 
Title I school: 2 Title I; 1 not Title I. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of table] 

Identification of Federal Discretionary Grant Programs for which 
Charter Schools are Potentially Eligible: 

To identify federal discretionary grant programs for which charter 
schools may be eligible, we used two existing lists of federal 
government education-related grant programs. We obtained a list of 108 
programs from the National Resource Center for Charter School Finance 
and Governance (Resource Center). To determine the reliability of the 
Resource Center's list, we reviewed documentation about development of 
the list we obtained from the Center's Web site and interviewed 
Resource Center representatives about the measures they took to ensure 
data reliability, including confirmation of program information with 
agency officials. We determined that the list was sufficiently 
reliable for our purposes. We obtained a second list of 151 programs 
from a prior GAO report.[Footnote 22] We matched and merged the two 
lists and screened them to select grant programs that met the 
following criteria: 

* programs from which a traditional public school would normally 
benefit; 

* programs to which charter schools, either as a public school, a 
local educational agency (LEA), or a nonprofit organization, may apply 
directly; 

* programs that award grants on the basis of a competitive process; 

* programs that provide monetary funding to schools; and: 

* programs that received a congressional appropriation or allocation 
during fiscal year 2008. 

These actions resulted in a list of approximately 90 programs 
administered by 13 federal agencies. To confirm the programs on our 
list, we contacted agency officials responsible for managing those 
programs. Based on information provided by the officials, we confirmed 
that many of the programs on our list met our criteria and we excluded 
any that officials denoted as not meeting our criteria. Some officials 
also provided the names of additional programs that met our criteria 
which were added to our list. 

To further refine our list, we designed a questionnaire and 
administered it to the appropriate federal agency officials in order 
to collect basic descriptive information for each program. In order to 
maximize the effectiveness of the questionnaire and to minimize error, 
we pretested the questionnaire with officials from three federal 
agencies. We conducted these pretests to ensure that the officials 
understood the questions and could provide the answers to them in a 
reasonable amount of time. Following each pretest, the questionnaire 
underwent additional, mostly minor, revisions. In addition to 
collecting descriptive program information, the questionnaire provided 
an additional opportunity for us to confirm, exclude, and add programs 
based on agency information and consultations with agency officials. 
Our final list contained 47 programs for which charter schools are 
potentially eligible. 

Interviews with Federal Agency Officials: 

To determine what role Education has played in helping charter schools 
establish their eligibility for federal programs at Education and 
other agencies, we interviewed agency officials with oversight 
responsibility for the discretionary programs identified in study 
question 1. The appropriate officials were identified with the 
assistance of the agencies' GAO liaisons and, in some instances, GAO 
liaisons for the program area. Seventeen interviews were conducted 
from March to June 2010. Some interviews covered multiple grant 
programs. Interviews covered 9 agencies and 42 programs for which 
charter schools are potentially eligible. Officials responsible for 
five of the programs did not respond to contacts for interviews. Of 
those five programs, one was the only program in the agency for which 
charter schools are potentially eligible. 

Open-ended questions were used to guide discussions and topics 
included: 

* actions, if any, taken to assist charter school applicants in 
applying for the program(s); 

* the number of charter schools that have applied for the program(s), 
if any, and the outcome of their applications; 

* identified challenges that charter schools face when applying for 
the program(s) and reasons charter schools may not apply for the 
program(s); 

* mechanisms used to notify charter schools about grant opportunities; 
and: 

* actions, if any, taken to follow up on then-Secretary Spellings' 
2006 letter to federal department and agency heads concerning a 
governmentwide initiative to ensure charter schools' eligibility for 
federal programs. 

We also spoke to charter school association representatives about any 
challenges charter schools may face in applying for federal programs. 
In addition, we asked the representatives how they identify federal 
funding opportunities for charter schools. 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Federal Discretionary Grant Programs for which Charter 
Schools Are Potentially Eligible: 

We identified 47 federal discretionary grant programs for which 
charter schools are potentially eligible. These programs satisfy the 
following criteria: 

* programs from which a traditional public school would normally 
benefit; 

* programs to which charter schools, either as a public school, an 
LEA, or a nonprofit organization, may apply directly; 

* programs that award grants on the basis of a competitive process; 

* programs that provide monetary funding to schools; and: 

* programs that received a congressional appropriation or allocation 
during fiscal year 2008. 

Two programs for which charter schools apply are not included among 
the 47 programs. Because traditional public schools, which are not 
eligible for Education's CSP, would not benefit from the program, and 
charter schools' eligibility is not an issue, the CSP is not included 
in the list. Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers 
program also is not included. Because school districts and schools 
compete for grant awards from their state education agency (SEA), the 
21st Century Community Learning Centers program appears to be a 
discretionary grant in some respects. However, Education awards 21st 
Century program grants to SEAs on the basis of a distribution formula 
and classifies it as a formula grant program. 

Table 9: Federal Discretionary Grant Programs For Which Charter 
Schools Are Potentially Eligible and Level of Fiscal Year 2008 Program 
Funding: 

Agency: Department of Agriculture; 

Program name: Secondary Education, Two-Year Postsecondary Education 
and Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom Challenge Grants (SPECA); 
Office within agency: National Institute of Food and Agriculture; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $900,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Community Facilities; 
Office within agency: Rural Housing Service; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $20,373,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Distance Learning and Telemedicine Program; 
Office within agency: Rural Utilities Service; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $25,290,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: Department of Commerce: 

Program name: Bay Watershed Education and Training; 
Office within agency: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 
(NOAA); 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $9,700,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: Department of Education: 

Program name: Foreign Language Assistance Program; 
Office within agency: Office of English Language Acquisition (OELA); 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $25,600,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Native American and Alaska Native Children in School; 
Office within agency: OELA; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $5,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Advanced Placement Incentive Program; 
Office within agency: Office of Elementary and Secondary Education 
(OESE); 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $31,573,442; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Alaska Native Education Equity; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $33,314,645; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Early Reading First; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $112,549,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Even Start: Migrant Education; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $1,993,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Impact Aid: Discretionary Construction Grants; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $17,500,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Improving Literacy Through School Libraries; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $19,144,597; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Jacob K. Javits Gifted and Talented Students Education 
Grant Program; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $7,460,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Smaller Learning Communities; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $80,107,636; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Teacher Incentive Fund; 
Office within agency: OESE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $97,270,470; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Arts in Education: Model Development Dissemination 
Grants Program; 
Office within agency: Office of Innovation and Improvement (OII); 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $12,928,130; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Full-Service Community Schools; 
Office within agency: OII; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $5,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Professional Development for Arts Educators; 
Office within agency: OII; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $7,820,939; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: School Leadership Program; 
Office within agency: OII; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $19,200,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Teaching American History Program; 
Office within agency: OII; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $117,903,600; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Transition to Teaching Program; 
Office within agency: OII; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: 43,700,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Voluntary Public School Choice Program; 
Office within agency: OII; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $25,818,923; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Women's Educational Equity Act Program; 
Office within agency: OII; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $1,846,174; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate 
Programs (GEAR UP); 
Office within agency: Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE); 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $303,423,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: International Research and Studies; 
Office within agency: OPE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $5,940,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: TRIO - Talent Search; 
Office within agency: OPE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $142,743,840; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: TRIO - Upward Bound; 
Office within agency: OPE; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $313,093,939; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Carol M. White Physical Education Program; 
Office within agency: Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools (OSDFS); 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $74,608,877; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Cooperative Civic Education and Economic Education 
E[Check]change Program; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $2,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Elementary and Secondary School Counseling Programs; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $48,600,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Grants for Integration of Schools and Mental Health 
Systems; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $5,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Grants for School-Based Student Drug-Testing; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $10,586,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Grants to Reduce Alcohol Abuse; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $32,423,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Mentoring Grants; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $48,544,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Partnerships in Character Education Program; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $22,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $24,334,403; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Program name: Safe Schools--Healthy Students Initiative; 
Office within agency: OSDFS; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $77,816,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Empty]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Empty]. 

Agency: Department of Labor: 

Program name: Youthbuild; 
Office within agency: Employment and Training Administration; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $58,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: Department of Health and Human Services: 

Program name: Community-Based Abstinence Education; 
Office within agency: Administration for Children and Families; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $113,400,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: National Center for Research Resources (NCRR) Science 
Education Partnership Award (SEPA); 
Office within agency: National Institutes of Health; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $16,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases 
(NIAID) Science Education Awards; 
Office within agency: National Institutes of Health; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $320,960; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Program name: Adolescent Family Life: Demonstration Projects; 
Office within agency: Office of Population Affairs; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $29,778,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: Environmental Protection Agency: 

Program name: Environmental Education Grant Program; 
Office within agency: Environmental Education; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $3,354,158; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: Executive Office of the President: 

Program name: Drug-Free Communities Support Program; 
Office within agency: Office of National Drug Control Policy; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $90,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: NASA: 

Program name: K-12 Competitive Grants Program; 
Office within agency: Education; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $14,000,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: National Endowment for the Arts: 

Program name: Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth; 
Office within agency: [Empty]; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $6,748,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Agency: National Science Foundation: 

Program name: Discovery Research K-12; 
Office within agency: Directorate for Education and Human Resources, 
Division of Research and Learning; 
FY 2008 appropriation or allocation[A]: $99,250,000; 
Allowable applicants: LEA: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Public school: [Check]; 
Allowable applicants: Nonprofit entity: [Check]. 

Source: GAO analysis of GAO federal agency survey data. 

[A] According to Education, not every grant competition is held every 
year and, thus, the total funding amount listed likely is greater than 
what is actually available each fiscal year for a grant program. 

[End of table] 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: Comments from the Department of Education: 

United States Department Of Education: 
Office Of Innovation And Improvement: 
400 Maryland Ave. S.W. 
Washington, DC 20202: 
[hyperlink, http://www.ed.gov] 

November 29, 2010: 

Ms. Cornelia M. Ashby: 
Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security Issues: 
Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Ms. Ashby: 

The Department of Education appreciates the work that went into the 
GAO draft report, "Charter Schools: Education Could Do More to Assist 
Charter Schools with Applying for Discretionary Grants." It addresses 
an issue we care very much about: helping to ensure that charter 
schools have the information and resources they need to compete for 
the federal funds for which they are eligible and qualify. We want to 
be sure that charter schools are aware of the grant opportunities for 
which they are eligible and that all possible discretionary grants 
application notices for programs for which charter schools are 
eligible make this eligibility explicit. The report notes some, but 
not all, of the Department's efforts to see that this occurs. We are 
always looking for ways to improve our communications efforts in this 
area. We welcome the recommendations contained in the report and 
intend to take actions to address each of them. 

In addition, although the draft report deals only with competitive 
programs, we also want to make sure that charter schools receive the 
full share of federal formula grant funds to which they are entitled. 

To date, our efforts around discretionary grants have focused on two 
principal objectives: ensuring that relevant Department of Education 
grant notices explicitly clarify charter schools' eligibility when 
appropriate and publicizing the availability of grants when they are 
available. 

With respect to ensuring that our notices explicitly recognize charter 
schools' eligibility, the report finds that we have already done this 
for 17 of the 33 competitions for which GAO concludes that charter 
schools were eligible. For the remaining 16 and for other competitions 
as well, we will take actions over the next year to ensure that 
announcements for each of these programs state specifically that 
charter schools are eligible applicants when appropriate. We note that 
for some of the programs where the grant announcements have not 
identified charter schools as eligible applicants, the Department has 
made their eligibility clear in supplemental materials. For example, 
my office has noted in a Frequently Asked Questions document that 
charter schools are eligible to apply under the Full-Service Community 
Schools (FSCS) program. Three charter schools were recently awarded 
FSCS grants. Nevertheless, it is our goal that, by this time next 
year, all grant competition announcements for programs for which 
charter schools are eligible make that eligibility explicit. 

It is important to note that we do not hold competitions for every 
grant program each year. We will update and publish new grant 
announcements only when we hold a new competition. 

We also intend to work with the other agencies mentioned in the report 
to encourage them to explicitly list charter schools as eligible 
applicants in their grant application notices. These agencies include 
the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National 
Science Foundation, the Department of Justice, the Department of 
Health and Human Services, the Department of Commerce, and the 
Department of Agriculture. We are grateful to GAO for identifying 
grant opportunities at these other agencies that may be available to 
charter schools. 

With respect to publicizing the availability of grant opportunities, 
the Department has done this for years through various means and has 
several improvements under way. For example, the Department has 
maintained an e-mail listserv on charter school matters, and any 
member of the public can sign up to be part of this listserv at the 
Charter Schools Program (CSP) home page. There are currently 2,988 
subscribers. When grant opportunities become available for which 
charter schools are eligible, a member of the CSP staff sends this 
information to the listserv subscribers. Your draft report notes that 
many charter schools contacted by the authors reported receiving these 
notices. 

While useful and effective, this process can be improved, and we are 
working to do so. First, registration is voluntary, and many charter 
schools are not on the list. Second, the process for identifying grant 
opportunities for subscribers can be further enhanced. To address 
these two issues, the Department is moving the listserv to the new 
National Charter Schools Resource Center (NCSRC), a technical 
assistance center funded by the Department under contract with the 
American Institutes for Research. Since its inception in 2009, NCSRC 
has been building its own e-mail list of charter schools, combing 
through public records and contacting individual charter schools for e-
mail addresses. The NCSRC staff is working to collect e-mail and 
physical mailing addresses for every charter school in the country by 
this spring. This process will help ensure that notices of grant 
opportunities for charter schools will be received by all. 

NCSRC is also developing a comprehensive and systematic approach to 
tracking grant opportunities so that charter schools are timely 
notified of them. The NCSRC staff will post grant opportunity 
information on the NCSRC Web site and will distribute it to the NCSRC 
mailing list. We will also link our own CSP home page to the NC SRC 
Web site. One goal is for the notifications to make it clearer whether 
the grant opportunity is available only for charter schools that are 
their own local educational agency (LEA), for charter schools that are 
nonprofit organizations, or for any charter school whether for-profit, 
nonprofit, an LEA, or a public school within an LEA. We expect the 
full Web site and notification system for further notifying charter 
schools will be running by June 2011. 

Given the perception identified in the draft report that applying for 
or receiving federal grants may be too burdensome for the small staffs 
of many smaller or newer charter schools, we intend to highlight on 
the NCSRC Web site examples of small charter schools that have 
successfully applied for federal grants. The NCSRC staff is also 
updating the information currently found in the 2000 document, 
"Accessing Federal Programs: A Guidebook for Charter School Operators 
and Developers," and will post this information on the NCSRC Web site. 
The Department will also continue to provide information on grant 
opportunities at various charter school conferences and through items 
on the Department's Web site. 

The Department also works to ensure that state educational agencies 
(SEAs) notify new and expanding charter schools of grant opportunities 
under the Department's formula grant programs, such as Title I, Part A 
of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended. 
This is part of SEAs' overall responsibility, as specified in 
Departmental regulations, to ensure that new or expanding charter 
schools receive their appropriate share of federal formula grant 
program funds in a timely fashion. (See the Education Department 
General Administrative Regulations (EDGAR) at 34 C.F.R. Part 76, 
Subpart H.) For those states (currently 22) that receive CSP funding 
under our SEA grant program (CFDA 84.282A), we conduct in-depth 
monitoring visits approximately every three years. Our monitors look 
closely at whether new and expanding charter schools received their 
appropriate share of federal funds and whether states are ensuring 
that charter schools are notified of discretionary grant 
opportunities. In those cases where states receive a negative 
monitoring finding, we work with them to implement appropriate 
corrective actions, which may include adjusting allocations to charter
schools. In extreme cases, the Department has the authority to 
withhold funds or take other enforcement actions. To further improve 
the monitoring process, we are strengthening Departmental oversight of 
state efforts to remedy negative monitoring findings. For example, the 
CSP staff recently initiated quarterly follow-up calls with each state 
for which a negative monitoring finding exists. 

The draft report notes that an estimated 25 percent of charter schools 
that applied for federal discretionary grants during the 2008-09 
school year received an award. This is higher than the success rate 
for applicants for funds under the Department's discretionary grant 
programs, which is closer to 15 percent for those programs identified 
in the draft report. (We note that the two rates might not be 
comparable, as the 25 percent estimate might refer to the percentage 
of charter schools applying for federal grants that received at least 
one grant, while the 15 percent rate refers to the percent of 
applicants that were successful in Department grant competitions.) If 
this success rate holds, it indicates great potential for charter 
schools as they apply at higher rates for funds under our 
discretionary grant programs. 

Finally, we note that it is unfortunate that the report did not 
consider charter school participation in two large grant programs 
administered by the Department. First, the five parts of the CSP make 
available over $200 million each year to charter schools for startup, 
expansion, facilities support, and information dissemination. Second, 
the Department's 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) 
program provides over $1.1 billion for centers providing before- and 
after-school programs for public school students, including students 
attending charter schools. This is a discretionary grant program 
administered by states, which receive allocations of funds by formula 
from the Department. 

Together, the over $1.3 billion of funds appropriated in recent years 
for the two programs is almost half as large as all 47 programs 
identified in the report combined. We know that charter schools 
receive almost all of the grants made under the CSP. And, anecdotally, 
we understand that charter schools receive grants and participate at a 
high level in the 21st CCLC grant program. We, therefore, believe that 
excluding these programs gives a more negative view of charter 
schools' participation in federal discretionary programs than is 
warranted. 

We thank GAO for this useful report and hope these comments are 
helpful. The recommendations and the data contained in the report will 
assist us as we work to help increase charter school participation in 
federal discretionary grant programs. 

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

James H. Shelton, III: 
Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement: 

[End of section] 

Appendix IV: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Cornelia M. Ashby (202) 512-7215, ashbyc@gao.gov: 

Acknowledgments: 

Sherri Doughty, Assistant Director Sara Edmondson, Analyst-in-charge: 

Jacob Beier, James Bennett, Susannah Compton, Doreen Feldman, Shelby 
Kain, Jill Lacey, Sheila McCoy, Meredith Moore, Luann Moy, David 
Perkins, Mark Ramage, James Rebbe, Christine San, Leigh Ann Sennette, 
and F. Elizabeth Valentin, also made significant contributions to this 
report. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] Estimates based on this survey are sample estimates and are 
subject to sampling error. Unless otherwise noted, estimated 
percentages have 95 percent confidence intervals of within +/-6 
percentage points. See appendix I for a more complete description of 
our charter school sampling methodology. 

[2] Two programs for which charter schools apply are not included 
among the 47 programs identified. Because traditional public schools 
are not eligible for Education's Charter Schools Program (CSP) and 
charter schools' eligibility is not an issue, the CSP is not included 
in the list. Education's 21st Century Community Learning Centers 
program also is not included. Because school districts and schools 
compete for grant awards from their state education agency (SEA), the 
21ST Century Community Learning Centers program appears to be a 
discretionary grant in some respects. However, Education awards 21ST 
Century program grants to SEAs on the basis of a distribution formula 
and classifies it as a formula grant program. 

[3] See GAO, Federal Education Funding: Overview of K-12 and Early 
Childhood Education Programs, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-51] (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 27, 
2010). 

[4] Although other federal agencies sponsor programs for which charter 
schools are potentially eligible, study question 2 focuses on 
Education's role. In January 2006, then-Secretary Spellings sent a 
letter to all agency heads announcing a governmentwide initiative to 
ensure charter schools' eligibility for federal grant programs and 
established a contact point in Education to assist other agencies with 
any eligibility issues that arose, indicating that Education was 
taking the lead on the issue. Thus, the study question emphasizes 
Education's role, but data collection and analysis encompassed what 
was happening at other agencies and whether other agencies had asked 
Education for assistance. 

[5] For purposes of this report, we refer to the District of Columbia 
as a state. 

[6] For the number of states with charter school laws, see Lauren Rhim 
and Dana Brinson, Retrofitting Bureaucracy: Factors Influencing 
Charter Schools' Access to Federal Entitlement Programs, report 
prepared for the Center on Innovation and Improvement, Lincoln, 
Illinois, 2010. 

[7] Formula grants are sometimes called mandatory or entitlement 
grants. 

[8] Announcements for most federal discretionary grant programs for 
which charter schools are potentially eligible are published in the 
Federal Register and on the [hyperlink, http://www.grants.gov] Web 
site. 

[9] All estimates based on our charter school survey are subject to 
sampling error. Unless otherwise noted, all percentage estimates have 
95 percent confidence intervals of within +/-6 percentage points of 
the estimated percentage. See appendix I for more information on 
sampling error and survey methodology. 

[10] Because surveying traditional public schools was beyond the scope 
of this study, we do not have information on the percentage of 
traditional public schools that apply to federal discretionary grant 
programs. 

[11] The programs we identified are limited to those that satisfy the 
following criteria: 1) programs from which a traditional public school 
would normally benefit; 2) programs to which charter schools, either 
as a public school, an LEA, or a nonprofit organization, may apply 
directly; 3) programs that award grants on the basis of a competitive 
process; 4) programs that provide monetary funding to schools; and 5) 
programs that received a congressional appropriation or allocation 
during fiscal year 2008. 

[12] Based on our survey, an estimated 96 percent of charter schools 
that applied for federal discretionary grants applied to programs 
administered by Education. The 95 percent confidence interval for this 
estimate is from 85 to 100 percent. 

[13] Because the discretionary grant programs for which our 41 survey 
respondents applied were their self-reported selections, we did not 
produce population estimates for numbers of discretionary grant 
programs for which charter schools applied. However, the programs 
listed serve as examples of the federal discretionary grant programs 
to which some charter schools applied. 

[14] Our estimate of the percentage of charter school applicants that 
received assistance from an EMO (29 percent) has a 95 percent 
confidence interval from 16 to 45 percent. Our estimate of the 
percentage of charter school applicants that did not receive 
assistance from an EMO (71 percent) has a 95 percent confidence 
interval from 55 to 84 percent. 

[15] Our estimate of the percentage of charter school applicants that 
received awards represents the number of charter schools that received 
at least one grant award divided by the number of schools that applied 
for at least one federal discretionary grant during school year 2008- 
2009. Due to the relatively low number (41) of surveyed charter 
schools that indicated they applied for federal discretionary grants 
during this school year, we do not provide the percentage estimate 
itself. Instead we provide a bound developed from the likely range of 
values for this percentage. Based on our sample, we are 95 percent 
confident that this percentage is between 29 and 63 percent. 
Consequently, "at least one-quarter" is a conservative lower bound for 
this percentage. 

[16] All nonfederal entities that expend $500,000 or more of federal 
awards in a year are required to obtain an annual audit in accordance 
with the Single Audit Act, as amended. 

[17] This estimate has a 95 percent confidence interval of within +/-8 
percentage points of the estimate itself. 

[18] The discretionary grant programs included are those that meet 
criteria laid out in appendix II. Also, see appendix II for a list of 
all federal discretionary grant programs that met these criteria. 

[19] The YouthBuild program targets out-of-school youth aged 16-24 and 
provides an alternative education pathway that encourages at-risk 
youth to obtain a high school diploma or GED credential and advance 
toward postsecondary education or employment. 

[20] The guidebook is available at [hyperlink, 
http://uscharterschools.org], the Web site of U.S. Charter Schools. 

[21] Response rates by stratum and overall response rate calculations 
are based on the RR3 response rate definition of the American 
Association of Public Opinion Research. 

[22] See GAO, Federal Education Funding: Overview of K-12 and Early 
Childhood Education Programs, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-51] (Washington, D. C.: Jan. 27, 
2010). 

[End of section] 

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