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, scale, or replicate student-focused options, and develop better teaching and learning approaches for every Arizona student.

Since its launch, A for Arizona has conducted seven successful grant cycles, awarding nearly 65 grants totaling over $20.75 million, forming a diverse portfolio of school replications, innovative learning models aimed to boldly redefine education, and best practices to better serve Arizona’s most vulnerable student populations. Of the projects funded, over 70 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.

Latest Fund Updates

A choice is not a choice if you can’t get there. Now you can.

School closures over the past two school years illuminated entrenched transportation barriers for far too many families. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey advocated for and invested $10 million of federal stimulus monies for public schools, local governments, and other entities to improve access to reliable and safe transportation and to support K-12 transportation innovation and efficiency solutions. In July 2021, A for Arizona also won a competitive bid thru the Arizona Department of Administration to administer the Arizona Transportation Modernization Grants totaling $20 million in FY22 to spark transit solutions and support those who want to develop and embrace additional options for better transporting K-12 public school 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.

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.

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.

Current Grant Opportunities

Enter the Application Portal

COMING SOON: Arizona Transportation Modernization Grants

Total funding available for FY23: $14 million

Get Inspired - Cycle 1 Look BookGet Inspired - Cycle 2 Look BookGet Inspired - Cycle 3 Look BookDriving Excellence: Lessons Learned

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

Vetting Committees

Eric Bach

Senior Vice President of Product & Chief EngineerLucid Motors

John Bailey

Advisor | FellowWalton Family FoundationAmerican Enterprise Institute

Benjamin Brockwell

PrincipalInvisionAZ Fund

Christy Burton

Co-Founder & ChairmanBurton Family Foundation

Eli Chmouni


Colleen Dippel

Founder & ExecutiveFamilies Empowered

Christina Foster

ParentBlack Mothers Forum

René Guillen

Deputy DirectorArizona League of Cities and Towns

Greg Lucero

Vice President of Government AffairsSouth 32 Hermosa

Mike McShane

Director of National ResearchEdChoice

Jenn Schiess

Senior Partner and Policy and Evaluation LeaderBellwether

Kate Sieker

Founder & ExecutiveYesAZ

Katrina Thurman

PresidentThrive Education & Housing Services

Leon Tynes

AP Computer Science TeacherXavier College Preparatory

Chelsea Waite

Senior ResearcherCenter on Reinventing Public Education

Marisa Walker​

Senior Vice President, InfrastructureArizona Commerce Authority

Jason Winsky

SergeantTucson Police Department

Mayor Corey Woods

MayorCity of Tempe

Ylenia Aguilar

Business Development Manager, Arizona CommunitiesSOURCE Global

Sarah Bishop-Root

Policy Director, Next Generation LearningExcelinEd

John Bailey

Advisor | FellowWalton Family FoundationAmerican Enterprise Institute

Christy Burton

Co-Founder & ChairmanBurton Family Foundation

Scott Evans

Director of Family and School EngagementCommunity Investment Corporation

Mayra Flores

Program ManagerThe Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation

Jason Gaulden

PartnerOak Rose Group

Kaitlin Harrier

Senior Policy Advisor, EducationOffice of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

Robin Lake

DirectorCenter on Reinventing Public Education

Greg Lucero

Vice President of Government AffairsSouth 32 Hermosa

Michele Mason

Chief Operating Officer50CAN

Jessica Pacheco

Managing PartnerHorizon Strategies

Maureen O'Shaughnessy

Founder & Executive DirectorMicroschool Coalition

Adrian Ruiz

Deputy Chief Investment OfficerRaza Development Fund

Mike Santellanes

Public Finance DirectorPhoenix IDA

Colin Seale

Founder & CEOthinkLaw

Beth Seling

Chief of OperationsVELA Education Fund

Jeff Sobotka

Vice President & State Broadband DirectorArizona Commerce Authority

Juliet Squire


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.

Southern Arizona Microgrants

Teachers, public and private school and system leaders, families, and innovative community partnerships all play a critical role to meet the moment and accelerate learners in Southern Arizona communities. The quality and caliber of applications we received for the first round of Southern Arizona Microgrants shows that our local leaders have bold ideas and are eager to develop creative solutions to address the current challenges facing our K-12 education system. In this first round, the Vetting Committee awarded over $140,000 microgrant awards with the potential to reach nearly 3,000 students in Southern Arizona.


Small Learning Communities

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.