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This Fall, The Opportunity Trust was awarded $35.5 million from US Department of Education through its Charter School Program State Entity (CSP-SE) grant. This is the first time an entity in Missouri has won this competitive national grant.

What is the Charter School Program (CSP)?

The CSP State Entities program is a federal initiative designed to support the development and expansion of high-quality charter schools across the United States. This federal program was first authorized in 1994 under the Clinton Administration and has received bipartisan support since, growing from $4.5M in annual funding to over $100M this year. 

Charter schools are publicly funded institutions that are tuition-free and open to all students. Charters also have the autonomy to operate within or independently of traditional public schools. This autonomy allows them to design and implement innovative educational approaches, making them an important part of the education landscape.

While charter public schools receive flexibility to meet the needs of their students and families, they also must adhere to strong accountability through state approval, monitoring, and evaluation. When schools do not meet the promises of their charter agreement they are supported to improve. If improvement is not realized, they are closed. When schools exceed expectations and generate strong parent demand, they often expand their capacity to serve more students.

Missouri’s rigorous charter school evaluation and authorization process in conjunction with a strong new school incubator has created an innovative and continuously improving charter public school sector. (Read about the new study from Stanford University highlighting the tremendous success of Missouri’s charter schools)

What is the Plan for the CSP in Missouri?

Over the next five years, The Opportunity Trust will design and administer a competitive, peer-reviewed award program to distribute subgrants to new, expanding, and replicating charter schools across the state. 90% of the state’s overall $35.5 million award is passed directly to schools for the purpose of defraying start-up and expansion costs. Both traditional school districts that are charter authorizes, like St. Louis Public Schools and Kansas City Public Schools, are eligible to apply for funding alongside charter public schools seeking to expand or launch. The Opportunity Trust will be able to leverage a dedicated set-aside to provide essential training, resources, and technical support to charter school operators and sponsors across the state.  

The Opportunity Trust’s role is to be a steward of these resources on behalf of Missouri’s charter sector. Our aim is to deliver a program that not only satisfies the federal government’s exacting standards, but meets the quality bar that our communities deserve.

Why Did The Opportunity Trust Receive the CSP-SE Grant?

Other teams in Missouri have applied to the CSP State Entities program, but this year’s competition marks the first time that a Missouri applicant has secured an award. While eligible entities from nine other states were awarded grants during the rigorous 2023 competition, The Opportunity Trust produced the application receiving the highest overall scores from the expert peer reviewers and a total award of $35.5 million over five years. 

What Comes Next?

Over the next several months, The Opportunity Trust is working with the program officer at the US Department of Education to finalize the local competitive grant process.  Subject to ED approval and federal government operations, this information is anticipated to be available in the first quarter of 2024.  

Stay tuned to our website, for more details on the launch of the application process.

Learn more:

Press release