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Introduction

The Arizona Department of Education, Exceptional Student Services, in concert with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services, encourage the development, implementation, and maintenance of programs that will benefit students with disabilities. Capacity building grant opportunities were developed to support this focus by assisting local education agencies in the provision of programs that will meet the education requirements of special needs students. The programs emphasize direct services to students as well as pre-service and in-service training options for educators serving this unique population.

The Arizona Department of Education allocates federal funds, to the extent that they are available, in compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997 (IDEA), §300.622 Subgrants to LEAs for capacity-building and improvement. The law asserts that state education agencies must make subgrants to local education agencies:

…to assist them in providing direct services and in making systemic change to improve results for children with disabilities through one or more of the following:

  1. Direct services, including alternative programming for children who have been expelled from school, and services for children in correctional facilities, children enrolled in State-operated or State-supported schools, and children in charter schools.
  2. Addressing needs or carrying out improvement strategies identified in the State's Improvement Plan under subpart 1 of Part D of the Act.
  3. Adopting promising practices, materials, and technology, based on knowledge derived from education research and other sources.
  4. Establishing, expanding, or implementing interagency agreements and arrangements between LEAs and other agencies or organizations concerning the provision of services to children with disabilities and their families.
  5. Increasing cooperative problem-solving between parents and school personnel and promoting the use of alternative dispute resolution.

The Arizona Professional Development Leadership Academy (PDLA) has defined capacity building as "an ongoing, planned, comprehensive, collaborative, and systemic process that is dynamic and brings significant, accountable, goal-directed change for all stakeholders resulting in increased achievement for all learners." Each capacity building grant imbeds this philosophy into its structure by promoting collaborative team efforts to identify the need; cultivate a structured plan that utilizes specific strategies and services to reduce that need; collect relevant data to monitor plan success; and encourage an environment that embraces and continues the successes after the grant ends.

Two-year grants, based on a number of disability-focused priorities, are awarded to eligible public education agencies on a competitive basis. Some of the priorities promote self-perpetuation and self-monitoring of grant activities. Others are more structured and require grant-specific training and offer technical support through various avenues. All encourage team cooperation to ensure greater outcomes for students. As old priorities that no longer serve the needs of Arizona's students are put to rest, new ones are established.

Capacity building grants are awarded to project proposals that fulfill programmatic criteria and meet high standards as judged by a team of impartial grant evaluators. Funding for the second year of a project is granted with the demonstration of progress toward successful outcomes during the first year, as described in the required annual completion report. Submission of a second-year renewal application outlining budget requirements and revised goals is also essential. A public education agency may be given one additional capacity building grant for a specific priority after the life of the first. This provision allows for up to four years of funding, enabling significant systemic change to take place. Since capacity building grants are competitive, however, a new application aligned with the grant terms at that time must be made. The new proposal may illustrate a different or enhanced program, but it must also build upon the successes achieved during the first grant and undergo the evaluation process.

Funding is viewed as "seed money", which may be used to start a new program or expand an existing one and is closely tied to sustainability of positive project outcomes. Project proposals must clearly demonstrate intent and a plan to maintain program activities or outcomes after the life of a grant.

Federal funds, such as those used to support capacity building grant programs, must be used to supplement and, to the extent feasible, increase the level of state and local funds expended for supporting the education of children with and without disabilities. These funds may not be used to supplant state and local funds. Grants are not awarded to education agencies that are out of compliance with state or federal requirements.

Federal law requires that education agencies receiving federal funds must file an annual completion report with the state education agency. Capacity building grants require the submission of completion reports within 90 days after the end of each year of the two-year grant. The completion report templates were designed to underscore grant successes and allow the second year to build upon the first. Information from second-year completion reports is used in this web site to demonstrate effective practices.

For more information on capacity building grants, the grant evaluation process, or this web site, contact Celia Kujawski at (602) 364-4019, or e-mail her at ckujaws@ade.az.gov.