Effective social emotional learning (SEL) requires a thorough understanding of the student population’s needs, training to integrate SEL into everyday lessons, and the instructional resources. Although educators and education advocates acknowledge the importance of SEL, the funding has lagged behind. In the edWebinar, “Funding Social Emotional Learning: Where’s the Money?,” Dr. Rita Oates, president of Oates Associates, explained that money can be found for SEL, but teachers need to be ready to tackle the world of grants. While employing a professional grant writer can be advantageous, Oates offered advice for those who will be overseeing the process or who plan to go after the funding themselves.
First, she said that grant writing is like writing a piece of fiction—teachers are being asked to talk about their vision of the future. They should familiarize themselves with the different tenets of SEL and projects that have already worked. One potential resource is Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which features definitions of SEL, research, and best practices. Research on SEL is especially helpful as grant applicants will need to prove the efficacy of their approach. In addition, educators should assess the social-emotional needs of their target kids. Having an assessment will validate requests to potential funders.
After educators have assembled the background information, they need to look at the variety of funding options. There are several opportunities available from the federal government, such as IDEA (special education); Title I, Part A (the largest single grant through the federal government to school districts); and Title II, Part A (supporting effective instruction). Most of the federal funds are awarded to local education agencies and require a concentrated effort from constituents across the school district.
For school or even class-level grants, educators can look to local sources. For example, service clubs like the Lions, Rotary International, and the Jaycees may have compatible funding programs. Local businesses and foundations, chambers of commerce, and the arm of a professional society within the school’s zip code are also worth contacting. Similarly, educators should look into community foundations where money from different donors is pooled to make an impact on the local population. With a well-written ask, schools may be surprised how eager these groups are to support area students.
Finally, educators should investigate crowd-funding sites like DonorsChoose.org. The key for this option is to line up a few donors, even at small amounts, before posting the project. Oates commented that success breeds success on these sites; donors are more likely to contribute if they see others have supported it.
Before pursuing any option, talk to your principal and the district development office to make sure you are not in conflict with other grant requests. More important, do not limit yourself to a single funding source.
“Don’t think that you have to get all the money from one source. People love to back a winner,” said Oates. “So, if you’ve already gotten some money from somebody, if you want to do a school-wide social emotional learning program, the first place that you might look is to go to the PTA. If the PTA can give $100, other people will give money for this as well. Think about all of the places that people care about this and how the community comes together.”
About the Presenter
Dr. Rita Oates, president of Oates Associates, has helped schools win grants from $500 to $1.9 million. As edtech director of Miami-Dade County Public Schools in Florida, the nation’s fourth largest district, Oates initiated innovative uses of technology, partly funded with more than $10 million in grants. She has also been the external evaluator on several collaborative federal grants. She has presented grant-writing workshops at conferences such as FETC and TCEA, for university faculty, and is presenting at METIS 2018 (in Mississippi). Oates has presented several other webinars for edWeb’s Education Funding community and has written more than a dozen books on edtech. Follow her on Twitter @ritaoates.
About the Community
Education Funding is a free professional learning community created to help educators and institutions uncover the funds they need to supplement shoestring budgets, expand innovative programs, prepare students for the increasingly complex skills they’ll need to participate in tomorrow’s workforce, and help close the equity gap in educating students from all backgrounds and circumstances.
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