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Frequently Asked Questions and Clarifications
Future Proud Michigan Educator 27b Grow Your Own Grants
When will the GYO Staff grant applications be available?
There are two rounds of grant applications for the 27b Grow Your Own grants. Round 1 GYO Staff Round 1 applications were accepted on the GEMS/MARS system until January 31, 2023, with awards announced in an MDE Press Release dated May 25, 2023. Round 2 GYO Staff applications will open on July 12, 2023 and be accepted until September 6th, 2023.
Who is eligible to apply?
Local education agencies (LEAs), intermediate school districts (ISDs), public school academies (PSAs). Individual educators are not eligible applicants; they are encouraged to inquire with their employers whether their employers have applied and were awarded a grant in Round 1, and/or whether their employers intend to for Round 2, to then determine their own status for reimbursement.
Note that public LEAs, ISDs, and PSAs can apply for the grant, and their educator preparation partner can be a public, independent, or alternative route program. In addition, if an LEA, ISD or PSA would like to apply on behalf of a non-public school, the applicant would need to serve as the fiscal agent.
Districts who may not have learned about Round 1 of the applications for the 27b grants originally but who see a need for more high-quality teachers in their buildings are encouraged to apply in Round 2, as are districts who intended to apply at the time of the Round 1 application window but missed the original deadline.
Districts who applied in the Round 1 but were denied because of common application errors (also see below) are also encouraged to apply in Round 2. It is hoped that these errors will be addressed in their Round 2 applications, especially with additional MDE support and guidance planned throughout the application window.
Finally, districts who won a 27b award in Round 1 but see an expanded need to support separate cohorts of teachers named in their first-round award are also eligible to apply.
Is there an advantage to applying as a group or consortium?
Applicants should consider how funds will be best managed by the applicant, who will become the fiscal agent. There is no preference given to the size of applications, so the decision to apply in a group is based on the applicant preference.
Can a PSA Authorizer apply on behalf of several PSAs?
No, the statute language does not allow for authorizers as applicants.
What can the grants pay for?
All GYO Staff grants can pay for tuition, fees, testing costs, books, travel to and from locations where the staff member participates in courses, and the costs of substitute employees. They can also pay for costs for 6-12th grade EXPLORE programs, up to 10% of what the district has budgeted for the awarded GYO grant.
Who qualifies as "support staff" under Section 27b?
Sec. 27b of the state budget specified funds for “support staff.” For the purposes of GYO Staff grants, support staff is defined as any employed individual who is working in a school. Examples include: teacher’s aides, paraprofessionals, before and after school care workers, bus drivers, and substitute teachers.
The employee does not have to be a full-time employee to qualify for funding.
Substitute teachers are considered support staff for the purposes of the GYO Staff grants. This is true even if the substitute teacher is employed by a third party, such as EduStaff.
What endorsements can be paid for by the grant?
GYO Staff funds can be used to add additional endorsements when an LEA, ISD, or PSA has demonstrated the need for the endorsement to meet staffing needs. All applicants will be expected to demonstrate the need for GYO funding as it relates to staffing needs. For this reason, applicants should describe their specific staffing needs in detail and show clear connections to the endorsements needed to address those needs.
Only endorsement programs leading to teacher certification are eligible. While this includes school counselor teaching endorsements, school counselor licenses are not eligible; thus, schools must be careful in addressing their needs for school counselors and the employment pathways their staff members intend to follow.
Not included in eligibility are administrator, school social work, and school psychologist credentials. While these roles are important, they were not included in the legislation providing for the grants.
Applicants may access a list of qualifying teaching endorsements on MDE's Directory of Educator Preparation Providers and Programs. Only programs that lead to endorsements classified as “Teacher or CTE” are eligible.
While CTE programs are considered endorsements that are eligible under 27b grant funds, Michigan also offers the Future Proud Michigan Educator Career and Technical Education (CTE) Teacher Recruitment and Retention Grants, also known as 61i grants, to Michigan's intermediate school districts.
Which educator preparation programs (EPPs) can a district work with?
Access MDE’s Directory of Educator Preparation Providers and Programs and select the desired endorsement to see a list of institutions and alternative routes that are approved to offer that endorsement.
Can endorsements granted by out-of-state preparation programs be paid for by the grant?
Yes, under certain conditions.
If a district is considering a partnership with an out-of-state preparation educator preparation provider, the completed program must be in a teaching endorsement area that Michigan can match. Endorsements that Michigan does not offer, such as Gifted and Talented or Curriculum and Instruction, are not eligible under the grant.
In addition, out-of-state educator preparation providers must:
- be accredited by one of the regional accrediting organizations recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation,
- be degree-granting,
- Include student teaching if the candidate is pursuing an initial certification, and
- be approved to lead to standard-level teacher certification in the state where it is offered.
It is important that applying districts who wish to name an out-of-state partner understand that the applicant assumes the risk of out-of-state providers and programs. This is because:
- Out-of-state certification programs and credentials may differ from Michigan programs and credentials; however, under an Interstate Compact Agreement (ICA), the Michigan Department of Education attempts to match out-of-state certificates, grade levels and content endorsements, as closely as possible. To determine reciprocity under the ICA, an evaluation must be completed.
- For this to happen, an individual educator applicant must submit an application through the Michigan Online Educator Certification System (MOECS). MOECS determines the appropriate certificate level (interim, standard or professional) based on answers to the application questions. Reciprocity notwithstanding, Michigan certification is not guaranteed.
- All applicants must fulfill all additional certification requirements as specified in Michigan laws and administrative rules.
Can a district partner with multiple EPPs?
Yes. Applicants are welcome to partner with any EPP that will help their candidates to meet their staffing needs. For example, an applicant may want to partner with a specific EPP for employees who are seeking additional endorsements, but partner with a different EPP for candidates who are seeking initial certification.
Can a candidate receive GYO grant funding and other grant funding?
Candidates cannot concurrently receive support through the MI Future Educator Fellowship (Sec. 27a) or MI Future Educator Stipend (Sec. 27c) while at the same time being designated for the GYO Staff grant (27b). The emphasis here is on the concurrent nature of the awards. For example, it is possible that a candidate could receive a GYO Staff grant to finish courses in one semester and then receive a MI Future Educator Student Teaching Stipend in a different semester.
In addition, GYO candidates also cannot be concurrently receiving funding through Sec. 27p, which is legislated for Marquette-Alger RESA and a consortium of ISDs to provide an apprenticeship GYO program.
What is the best way to project a budget for a Round 2 application if future costs of tuition are not known?
Since budgeting for a program will require a general estimate of how much tuition and fees might increase across the time it takes a candidate to complete their program, applicants are encouraged to use previous tuition increases for these estimates, working with their partnering EPP(s) for projected rates of increase.
What is a "no-cost pathway" as mentioned in grant guidance?
This means that the entire pathway the candidate experiences toward certification and/or endorsements should be completed at zero final cost to the candidate. Grant budgeting should therefore contemplate all possible eligible costs: tuition, fees, testing, materials, books, transportation, the cost of substitutes necessary to ensure the candidate's participation in coursework, and any other costs directly related to the grantee's GYO program.
How will the awarded grant money come to the district?
Grants will be reimbursed through NexSys, in the form of federal draw downs. If awarded, grantees will be oriented to their funding source and financial monitoring obligations.
What happens if a candidate intended for the grant has already incurred expenses, such as tuition?
If a district was awarded a grant and an intended candidate had already paid tuition (or another allowable expense) during the eligibility window, that tuition would qualify for reimbursement. Districts who received a federally funded grant can reimburse candidate expenses as far back as March 3, 2021. Districts who received a state funded grant can reimburse candidate expenses as far back as October 1, 2022.
Do candidates have to complete a degree if they get the GYO Staff grant?
No, they do not. In accordance with the fiscal year 2024 legislated requirements, the program can have a certificate-only pathway.
What happens if an employee leaves the district or doesn't continue the program?
LEAs, ISDs, and PSAs are encouraged to develop local policies for the employees who participate in their programs. Once awarded, grantees will be able to reallocate funding to qualifying employees should their participating candidates change or move to new employers.
What happens if there is no position to offer a candidate after program completion?
A grant award is predicated on the assumption that by establishing your staffing needs in the application, all applicants will have a position to offer. However, the legislation states: If the district or intermediate district is unable to hire an eligible recipient as required under subdivision (e), the eligible recipient may serve the years the recipient pledged to serve under this subdivision at another district, intermediate district, or nonpublic school.)
What if the candidate moves and cannot be hired by the applicant?
Legislated language only specifies a pledge to hire the candidates. Local districts are welcome to establish their own internal policies and to make them clear to program participants.
How many years does a candidate need to stay in the district after earning their certificate or endorsement?
Candidates have to pledge to stay in the district for as many years as they were in the program, after earning the credential the program provided.
Does a district pay tuition to the EPP or reimburse tuition expenses directly to the employee?
While both options are available, paying the institution directly is the most equitable option, as it does not require the employee to incur any up-front costs. In addition, depending on the advice of certified tax professionals, it may avoid tax liability implications for the employee (see below).
Are reimbursements paid to the employee under the grant considered taxable income?
While the MDE cannot provide tax-related advice, it recommends that school districts stay in touch with their certified, trained tax professionals or tax preparers to get the final word on tax implications arising from grant reimbursements. This includes understanding how federal tax resources such as IRS Publication 970 relate to their local fiscal policies.
How can a district budget for costs that are not specified in legislation?
Applying districts can add relevant costs based on the legislated language that says expenses “could include, but are not limited to,” those specified in the application. If an applicant applies for “other” expenses, those costs must be justified as necessary and not ancillary to the costs outlined in legislation. In the function explanation table on the grant application, the applicant must articulate clearly how “other” funds will be expended in alignment with legislative intent and indicate amounts requested using the corresponding object codes. Again, the primary legislative intent is to provide a “no-cost” pathway to staff who are enrolling in educator preparation programs to earn credentials that meet district needs.
What if a district is given a grant award but portions of the application were denied?
Districts may still be eligible for funding even if some of the expenses are denied. The grant award notice will specify any funds that have been denied. In the case of partial funding, awardees may need to fund fewer candidates or spend differently than anticipated within identified parameters and budget codes. Where possible, past grant award committees were mindful to award partial funds with the hopes of at least providing full funding for the pathways of a portion of the candidates, even if this meant funding fewer candidates overall. The Round 2 GYO grant committee will be given the same instructions, where necessary.
Which errors led to disqualification or low scores in Round 1?
As explained in a May 30, 2023 MDE memo, the following were considered “common errors” that led to districts being disqualified or earning low scores in Round 1 of the GYO Staff grants:
- Unqualified applicant. Applicants must represent local education agencies (LEAs), or intermediate school districts (ISDs), or public school academies (PSAs). Individual teachers cannot be applicants.
- Missing or incomplete partnership agreements. Applicants were required to submit signed Partnership Agreements with every Michigan approved educator preparation provider (EPP) selected in the application.
- Missing or incomplete budget information. Applicants were required to complete a budget table itemizing expenses to be covered by the grant, keyed to specific budget codes, and to provide explanations for each budget item. Applications were of low quality if they provided blank or non-specific budget function explanations, or submitted totals for an expense without breaking total down into corresponding object code cells.
- Extraneous attachments and information. Applicants were directed to only upload partnership agreements. Documents other than partnership agreements that were uploaded to supplement other parts of the application were not reviewed.
- Inadequate demonstration of need. Applicants were required to provide data on the supply and demand of educators specific to their local educational community. Further, applicants were required to demonstrate that the proposed grow your own program was aligned to address that need.
How does a district add a staff member on official notifications and updates about their award?
Is there any application guidance a district could use before applying, such as a template tool?
Yes. A downloadable copy of the application template is available here and on the opening screen of the GEMS/MARS application. MDE recommends that districts use this resource to carefully draft their responses, keeping a copy of their intended finished responses for their own records and later reference.
Can districts add EPP partners even after they are awarded funds?
Yes, this has been included in the Round 1 monitoring and guidance document and will also appear in the Round 2 monitoring and guidance document once those awards have been made. Districts can access the New EPP Partnership Request Form here.
Can the GYO grant cover the cost of a Master's or PhD program as long as it includes an endorsement?
The GYO School Staff grants are expressly for reimbursing the allowable costs for initial certification or to add on an endorsement to an existing certification. As such, their allowable costs can be reimbursed for any course of study that includes either a teaching certificate or an endorsement to an existing certificate, and results in that teaching certificate or the endorsement at some point during the course of study. However, a course of study that progresses beyond those purposes is not considered an allowable cost.
Can the GYO grant cover the cost of teacher mentors?
Yes, districts can reimburse the costs of teacher mentors in much the same ways they can reimburse the costs of substitute teachers who support the candidate’s ability to engage in coursework relevant to their initial certification or additional endorsement, but the following four conditions must be observed:
- The mentor is directly and specifically supporting the GYO candidate in their ability to fully participate and be successful in coursework (which includes clinical experiences, practicum, internship, or student teaching).
- The mentor is not otherwise already employed in this same capacity by the district; the mentor’s work to support the GYO candidate is “above and beyond” their regular duties. (In other words, the activities of the mentor do not supplant other originally designated duties.)
- The costs of the mentor’s time are not already paid for by some other grant source.
Note that a “mentor” can be a currently employed, supervising teacher assigned to the candidate, but the work of that supervising teacher must also adhere to the conditions described above.
Do candidates have to be hired before they begin coursework?
Candidates do not have to be currently on payroll as school staff for districts to designate them as future, eligible recipients of reimbursements. Thus, while many districts have candidates in mind who are current employees but who haven’t begun coursework, they may also have in mind recent graduates who are not actually current employees but who will hopefully become one upon completion of coursework. However, any candidate must be an employee during the same fiscal years they receive reimbursement funds.
Can districts designate candidates who will replace a teacher who is due to retire—even if that position is not open at the time the candidate begins coursework?
Yes, and in fact this is an excellent planning technique, which indicates the district is keeping a close eye on its staffing needs. The intended position that a GYO candidate is to fill need not be open at the time the candidate begins incurring reimbursable expenses under the GYO grant. However, if upon completion of the initial certification or additional endorsement there is no position available, refer to “What happens if there is no position to offer a candidate after program completion?” above.
Are custodians, clerical employees, food service workers, and bus drivers who are hired by a third party eligible for the grant?
Yes, these are all excellent examples of third-party employees who may have dreams of becoming teachers and who would be eligible as candidates for reimbursements of allowable costs under the grant.
Will the scoring rubric for the grant applications be made public?
Yes, it will, but only after the Round 2 application scoring has concluded and all appeals have been settled, if any. This is done to maintain the highest degree of fairness and integrity of the grant’s evaluation process.
What is the difference between the grant obligation date and the grant ending date, as seen on the Grant Award Notification (GAN) document?
A better way to understand “ending date” is “liquidation date,” and to think of these dates as windows of activity:
- 12/31/24 is the close of the obligation window, which is the district’s last chance to declare what the money will be used for and to plan accordingly, making sure the plan for the expenditures matches what was described in the original application, to the extent possible.
- 12/31/26 is the close of the liquidation window, which is the district’s last chance to actually spend their money and to receive reimbursement. Districts will spend money making their reimbursements all throughout the life of the grant, but 12/31/26 is their very last date to do so.
What happens if a candidate’s expected completion of their initial certification or additional endorsement occurs after the end of the liquidation window?
Following the definition above, 12/31/26 is the final point at which reimbursements can be paid out from the awarded grant money. While it does not mean that all candidates have to be done with their initial certifications or their additional endorsements that they were pursuing with assistance from the grant, it does mean that since further reimbursements cannot be made after this date, costs that incur after this date have to somehow be covered for the candidate—to ensure that they have access to the no-cost pathway which is the basis for the grant in the first place. Accordingly, this possibility requires some advance planning on the part of the district. A good suggestion is that districts put in place other financial assistance sources for that candidate when a candidate is projected to not have completed their coursework by 12/31/26.
Can employees who wish to become school counselors be reimbursed for their coursework under the GYO grant?
Yes, on the condition that those employees will be working toward their School Counselor (NT) endorsement, which is a valid endorsement for reimbursement under the grant.
When making purchases of books under the GYO grant program, is sales tax also reimbursable?
Yes, districts may reimburse Michigan sales tax through grant funds, so long as they are reimbursing the teacher candidate. Direct payment to the EPP from the district would not be allowed to include sales tax since the district, as a purchaser, qualifies as tax-exempt. While direct payment to the EPP is the preferable approach to reduce the immediate cost burden on the candidate, the MDE understands that this arrangement is not always possible. In these cases, the candidate may be reimbursed in full for eligible expenses, which includes sales tax where applicable.