Untapped Potential for Greatness

In 2018, with the help of generous philanthropic support by The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation, Burton Family Foundation, Pharos Foundation, and other generous donors, A for Arizona launched a first-of-its kind, statewide privately-funded Expansion & Innovation Fund open to all K-12 models. The Fund was designed to seed community-driven solutions and test ideas quickly to maximize opportunities and impact for students now, not years from now. The Fund awards seed funding to help innovative leaders and educators reimagine models, create and scale more student-focused options, and develop better teaching and learning approaches for every Arizona student.

Since 2019, A for Arizona has awarded over $1.5 million to 32 public district and charter school grant recipients, forming a diverse portfolio of innovative learning models and programs all aimed to boldly redefine education and best practices to better serve Arizona’s most vulnerable student populations. Of the projects funded, over 60 community partners have been actively engaged with grant award recipients, including chambers of commerce and corporations, civic organizations, universities, youth leadership nonprofits, and parent organizations. All are invested in helping redesign what schooling looks like in Arizona and to expand opportunities to better meet parent demand in their local community.

Our children will be better off if we choose to invest in those who are proving that despite the current challenges, schooling can be reinvented, and students can thrive. We have been an early believer in the power of the Expansion & Innovation Fund and know we must treat this moment with the urgency it deserves, and targeted investments will help deliver access and opportunity now, especially for our highest need students and families.

Christy Burton

Angel Investor and Vetting Committee Member
Burton Family Foundation

Innovators rose to the occasion when schools closed in 2020. We invested in their best ideas.

Governor Ducey was inspired by the success of the Expansion & Innovation Fund's inaugural class, directing $1 million to A for Arizona's Expansion & Innovation Fund effort - becoming the first governor to leverage federal CARES Act GEER funding last summer toward innovation and scaling successful learning models to provide more high-quality opportunities for students and communities hit hardest by COVID-19. Of the projects we seeded, the public Small Learning Community examples proved community-driven, small scale solutions work well for kids and families, and revealed the need to invest in more public options like these.

Small models make a big impact.

In October 2020, Governor Ducey announced an additional $500,000 investment to the Expansion & Innovation Fund through the federal CARES Act GEER funding to design and grow public Small Learning Communities, targeting kids who were not well served by their existing schooling system or whose parents were relying on a Small Learning Community option to get back to work. Grants seeded public school models of the future, including learning pods, learning hubs, small schools-within-schools, and micro-schooling that all made access to public Small Learning Communities more equitable and supported students whose learning had been most significantly disrupted during the global COVID-19 pandemic, especially low-income students.

Proven track record for kids and families, greater results.

For decades, leaders in Southern Arizona have led the way with first-of-its-kind community-driven concepts and disruptive student-focused models of learning. With this long-standing track record of excellence and innovation, we are launching a new regional grant opportunity for Southern Arizona. The VELA Education Fund, in collaboration with local champion for excellence and opportunity Burton Family Foundation, committed $500,000 to develop and expand our diverse portfolio of learning models and programs that best meet every child’s academic and social-emotional needs. The Pima IDA in partnership with the Community Investment Corporation dedicated an additional $100,000 towards this regional microgrant opportunity. A for Arizona is working with local partners to raise $1 million total for seed-funding local teachers, school leaders, families, and entrepreneurs’ ideas to boldly reimagine education in Southern Arizona and develop a proof point for future region-specific grant opportunities.

Current Grant Opportunities

NEW: Southern Arizona Microgrants

  • The application window goes live Thursday, June 3 and will be open for 5 weeks. Final submissions are due by July 8 at noon AZ.
  • The Expansion & Innovation Fund will award microgrants up to $25,000 in seed funding for bold proposals that accelerate education innovation and opportunity for PreK-12 students in Southern Arizona.
  • Teachers, public and private school and system leaders, families, and innovative community partnerships all play a critical role to meet the moment and to reimagine learning models and approaches to better serve more students at a high level from Pre-K to 12th grade in Cochise, Pima, Santa Cruz, and Yuma Counties.
  • Prospective applicants must sign up for the application portal. Use the link below to sign up or get back to you application.

Award Announcements and a Second Round Coming Soon!!

New statewide grant opportunities

Coming Soon!

Our Fund provides access to fast capital to jump start bold approaches to learning and educational excellence in Arizona.

Vetting Committee

John Bailey

Advisor | FellowWalton Family FoundationAmerican Enterprise Institute

Christy Burton

Co-Founder & ChairmanBurton Family Foundation

Mayra Flores

Program ManagerThe Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation

Kaitlin Harrier

Policy Advisor, EducationOffice of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

Becky Hill

Regional Directoryes. every kid.

Danny Knee

Executive DirectorCommunity Investment Corporation

Robin Lake

DirectorCenter on Reinventing Public Education

Greg Lucero

Vice President of Government AffairsSouth 32 Hermosa

Jessica Pacheco

Managing PartnerHorizon Strategies

Karla Phillips-Krivickas

Senior Director, Policy and AdvocacyKnowledgeWorks

Adrian Ruiz

Deputy Chief Investment OfficerRaza Development Fund

Mike Santellanes

Public Finance DirectorPhoenix IDA

Colin Seale

Founder & CEOthinkLaw

Brad Selby

Managing OwnerWeathering Steel LLC

Janelle Wood

FounderBlack Mothers Forum

Grantee Expectations

Engage with Thought Partners

Engage with like-minded innovators within the Expansion & Innovation Fund portfolio and national edupreneurs.

Showcase Solutions

Openness to showcase best practices and models to press and media.

Model for Others

Commit to being a model for others to learn from and view in person and/or virtually.

School Demographics

Weighted priority will be given to proposals serving traditionally underserved student populations and highest need communities in the wake of the pandemic. Proposals targeting locally-driven solutions in remote, rural, urban, and suburban Arizona communities are all eligible.

Deliver High-Quality Learning

‘D’ and ‘F’ rated schools or federally identified underperforming schools are ineligible as well as any schools or systems found not in good standing or out of compliance with the Arizona Department of Education, State Board of Education, or State Board for Charter Schools.

Provide Data

Collect and report on qualitative and quantitative data and key learnings and insights, including financial expenses. Willingness to share data and findings with researchers.

Meet the Portfolio

We are sparking a new generation local-driven solutions and collaborative learning opportunities for students – especially low-income students- that are already increasingly in demand by Arizona families. We invite you to join us and help us catalyze on this moment. Get inspired by learning more about past grant recipients below.

2021 Recipients

Many Arizona families responded to the pandemic by gravitating toward small school concepts that work well for kids. Meet A for Arizona's newest Public Small Learning Communities — all community-driven, small scale solutions by public schools across Arizona benefiting nearly 1,000 students this spring 2021 semester. Our Fund provided seed funding for new small models and approaches to teaching and learning that supported student populations' whose learning was significantly disrupted during the COVID-19 pandemic to make access to new Small Learning Communities more equitable and free to families.


2020 Recipients

The 19 public K-12 school systems that received Expansion & Innovation Fund microgrants took advantage of the opportunity to reimagine how to best serve their students in the 2020-2021 school year. This seed funding supported school redesign efforts and new programs and approaches to improve access to high-quality teaching and learning. The final recipients demonstrate innovations and promising practices with student populations that were most significantly disrupted during the global COVID-19 pandemic.


Inaugural 2019 Recipients

Inspired by their successful Early College program, Vail’s Middle College program allows high school seniors to enroll in full time coursework at Pima Community College’s East Campus. Middle College students receive supplemental classes and additional study skills support from a Vail teacher to ensure success in college and high school. Through the Middle College program, up to 50 Vail students (70% minority, 58% free & reduced price lunch (FRL) population) will be able to earn a full year’s worth free college credit during their senior year, setting them up for success in a multitude of college and career pathways upon graduation. Learn more.

Awarded $75,000

Vail plans to eventually expand the Middle College to all six Pima Community College campus and high school students across southern Arizona.

This public charter school used the grant to help launch a new Glendale campus, bringing an in-demand STEM curriculum to over 1,000 students (87.9% minority, 71.9% Hispanic, 92.3% FRL) in the West Valley starting Summer 2019. Since launching the first Academy of Math & Science in 2000, the AMS network has developed a particular knack for delivering an exceptionally high quality STEM-focused education in high poverty communities. Learn more.

Awarded $70,000

In our second year, we are offering multiple classes across a majority of grade levels at above-grade level. Our goal is at the neighborhood and state level, perform at the 95th percentile relative to all schools with similar demographics and to ensure that 100% of our 8th grade graduates are prepared for competitive high schools and attend a high-performing STEM, career, and/or college preparatory program.

Nogales Unified and Mexicayotl have decades-long history of informal cooperation arising out of leaderships’ shared vision for the Greater Nogales community. This district/charter duo launched an innovative academic partnership together to support increased academic achievement for all students in Nogales. They hired a shared curriculum coordinator to develop a streamlined STEM shared curriculum with an emphasis on the unique environmental challenges of the Sonoran Desert to provide many more Nogales-area students (98% minority, over 78% FRL) with a high quality STEM education in the future. Learn more.

Awarded $70,000

This public charter school used the grant funds to support a 12,000 square-foot expansion of its Surprise campus. A true community school, Arizona Charter Academy enrolls nearly 900 local Surprise students grades K-8 (81% minority, 71% FRL). We are thrilled that this longtime school of excellence will now be able to serve 250 additional students in the 2020-2021 school year. Learn more.

Awarded $40,000

ACA will continue to find innovative ways to defy the odds with our students!  We are on track to offer 5 full classes for every grade level once the building is complete. While so many schools are limiting their offerings in fine arts and STEM, ACA knows the importance of these areas and is seeking to increase these programs to further engage the next generation of students.