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Thirty-five teams apply for $1M Mind Trust grants

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Thirty-five teams from 19 states applied for $1 million grants from the Mind Trust to launch chains of charter schools in Indianapolis, the Indianapolis-based not-for-profit announced Thursday.

The Mind Trust will cull those applicants down to three grant winners by June.

The winners’ mission will be to launch charter schools that attract low-achieving students and help nearly all of those students graduate and achieve college success. The Mind Trust wants the winners to replicate such schools at three or four additional locations around Indianapolis.

The $1 million grants will flow from a pot of $4.85 million the Mind Trust raised from Arkansas-based Walton Family Foundation, Eli Lilly and Co. Foundation and the city of Indianapolis.

In addition to the three grants given this year, the Mind Trust plans to hand out one or two grants each year for the next few years.

“If we’re going to start changing systems, we need to flood the zone,” Mind Trust CEO David Harris said when he announced the grant program in October. “We thought that if we could get the next generation of charter management organization leaders, at least some of them, to start a school here in Indianapolis, then if we could get one school, we could get five or six or seven."

Mind Trust will also form a charter school incubator to help the startup teams develop school plans, apply and receive charters, find real estate, hire staff and recruit students.

The incubator concept is a joint effort between Mind Trust and the city of Indianapolis, which Mayor Greg Ballard announced Sept. 14. Ballard committed $2 million toward the efforts, using RebuildIndy funds the city received from its sale of the Indianapolis Water Co. to Citizens Energy Group.

Mind Trust said the applicants so far include team members with work experience for charter school chains like San Francisco-based KIPP and from teacher training programs like The New Teacher Project and Teach For America. Other teams include university professors and former teachers, principals and superintendents.

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