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NEF Offers $70 Million in School Matching Funds
The National Education Foundation's Cyberlearning project has set aside $70 million that it will award to disadvantaged schools that are applying for federal assistance through the Qualified Zone Academy Bonds (QZAB) program.
The program, which provides up to $1 million in interest-free loans to schools (with a total of $700 million available), requires that applicants secure 10 percent of their request in matching grants from businesses or nonprofits. NEF said it will provide those matching funds to any school that qualifies for the program. (The key eligibility requirement is a school located in an Empowerment Zone or an Enterprise Community "or in which at least 35 percent of the school's students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch,..." according to the United States Department of Education.)
Funds from the program can be used not only for renovating older buildings but also for equipment purchases, curriculum development and teacher professional development. Funds received through QZAB are not grants but rather loans that are repaid over 10 to 25 years. As part of the requirement for the loan, schools must receive a contribution of cash, services or goods valued at 10 percent of the borrowed amount.
"School districts across the Nation are faced with serious budget cuts at a time U.S. rankings in math, reading and science are still going down," said Appu Kuttan, NEF chairman, in a prepared statement. "Twenty-four countries are ranked ahead of [the United States] in math. Our $70 million grant program would provide school districts the required 10% match and a world-class STEM+ academy at no cost. Moreover, schools located in low income communities could receive additional Federal cash grants."
"NEF helped us to receive $34 million in Federal funds for renovating our school facilities and energy efficiency programs," aid Misty Weber, the NEF academy program director at Pennsylvania's Warren County School District, also in a prepared statement. "In addition, NEF's STEM+ academy, implemented by SUNY, helped our students to advance a grade level in in math in 22 learning hours. NEF also set up a parent academy to train our parents in job skills, as well as a teacher academy to enhance our teachers' teaching skills at no cost."
Details about the federal QZAD program can be found on ed.gov. Further information about NEF's matching funds program can be found on qzab.org.