Stronger Connections Grant

Arkansas Department of Education

Safe and Healthy School Communities

On September 15, 2022, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) Division of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) was awarded $9,378,149 in federal K-12 funding from the U.S. Department of Education under the BSCA Stronger Connections grant program Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) for state educational agencies (SEAs) to provide students with safe and healthy learning environments. ADE is awarding these funds through competitive grants to high-need local educational agencies (LEAs) that ensure transparency and successful implementation of activities allowable under section 4108 of the ESEA to support the ongoing needs of students, educators, families, and communities.

Grant Purpose

The Stronger Connections grant aims to provide funding for LEAs to develop, implement, and evaluate a comprehensive approach that prioritizes physical and emotional safety for their unique school community (SEC. 4108 [20 U.S.C. 7118]). Funded activities and practices should promote safe and supportive learning environments by prioritizing safety, creating a sense of belonging, and teaching positive behaviors in order to improve academic achievement and the well being of all students. All grant expenditures must supplement, not supplant.

Benefits of Participating

The Safe and Healthy Connections Grant will provide:

  • Professional development and funding for training.
  • Technical assistance to support development, implementation and sustainable practices.
  • Development of family and community engagement partnerships.
  • External coaching to support safe and healthy development and implementation.
  • Development of personnel for safe and healthy school initiatives.

Grant Management System

Districts or consortiums of districts may apply for this grant. The applying LEA(s) must be in the grant management system found on the ADE Data Center.

High-Need Priority

Priority for the Stronger Connections grant will be given to LEAs that are considered high-need districts. A high-need district includes both of the following:

  • high rates of chronic absenteeism score 90 or below (source: ESSA School Index, Student Engagement Score); and
  • high poverty rates 40% or higher (source: Free & Reduced Lunch Count.)

Possible Programs

Safety & Violence Prevention Programs

  • School safety, climate, and academic growth, including interventions that support positive relationships, resilience, self-control, empathy, and
  • Professional development and training for school staff and interested community members in violence prevention, education, early identification, and supporting and responding to student needs.
  • Improving instructional practices for developing relationship-building skills, effective communication, and improving safety including recognizing abuse, dating violence, stalking, domestic abuse, and sexual violence.

Positive & Fair Discipline

  • Working together with students, families, and community members to implement multi-tiered behavior support systems. 
  • Increasing opportunities to support students’ strengths and interests through civic engagement and service-learning, where students can apply academic concepts to solve real-world challenges. 
  • Phasing out exclusionary discipline practices for non-violent behavior in exchange for programs that teach conflict resolution practices for
    educators and students.

Allowable & Unallowable Purchases


Personnel & Benefits

  • Mental Health Counselor
  • Social Worker
  • Behavioral Health Aide
  • SRO

Personnel & Benefits

  • Staff to Oversee program
  • Public Relations/Advertising



Professional Development

  • Program Implementation Training

Professional Development

  • Out of state travel
  • Training unrelated to program goals


  • Electronic access for exterior doors
  • Supplemental locks for classroom doors
  • Intercom/communication system
  • Security cameras
  • Shatter resistant film
  • Signage to indicate building locations
  • Weapon detection system
  • Removable window covers on classroom doors


  • Equipment cannot require construction or major renovation for installation








  • Training/PD materials
  • Student multi-tiered support system supplies
  • Materials needed for program implementation*

*Prior approval required



  • Food/drinks
  • Technology
  • Gift Cards
  • Advertising/PR


Any purchases over $1000.00 must receive prior approval.

Application and Public Comment

Please use The Stronger Connections Grant link to complete the application: The completed application should be emailed to

A video explaining how to complete the application is available through this link:
Stronger Connections Grant Video.

Public comments may be submitted through THIS form. Public comments may also be submitted via regular U.S. mail to the following: Arkansas Department of Education, Federal Program Unit, Four Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, Box 26.

The DESE will accept Applications and Public Comment until 4:00 p.m. on June 9, 2023.

Application Overview

In order to complete the application, please make a copy of the application, fill it out and
submit it to:

Getting Started

  • Collaborate with stakeholders to identify the school's needs surrounding a safer and healthier learning environment.
  • The school team develops a plan for activities, practices and programs to include
    in the application.

Equitable Services

  • The LEA must consult with any private schools in their district boundaries before filling out the application.
  • The private schools' requests must fall within the scope of the LEA’s program. It does not have to be the same programs or purchases but it needs to be the same overall theme. 
  • The private school does not need to meet the high need category as long as the LEA does. 
  • If a private school chooses to participate in the BSCA grant program, the LEA will include the private schools’ enrollment as a part of the LEA’s total enrollment.

Grant Management
For support or additional information contact:

Application Timeline and Selection Process

  • Grants applications will be accepted from May 1, 2023 through June 9, 2023.
  • The competitive grant process will begin following the final date. Scoring will be based on the rubric below.

Award Amounts

LEAs can receive a base amount based on the scale below + LEA student population x $25. Grant timeline is from 2023-2026. Funding must be obligated
no later than September 30, 2026.

Grant Base Amount Scale

Enrollment*Scale MultiplierBase Funding
10,001-20,000 2.50250,000
20,001-30,0003.00 300,000

*Enrollment is calculated by adding the total number of students in the district (or consortium) + the total number of students in any participating private schools
within the district.


The DESE will monitor all grantees to ensure funds are being expended as per guidelines. Grantees can mitigate risk by spending 33% or more of grant funds
each year.

Grant Application Rubric

ApplicationTotal Possible Points
Supporting Data/Description25 points
Budget25 points
Evaluation Plan and Sustainability25 points
Total Application Points Available 75 points
Priority Points (will be added by ADE) Total Possible Points
High rates of chronic absenteeism  5 points
High rates of poverty  5 points
Total Possible Priority Points Available10 points
Total Overall Points Possible 85 points


All grantees must assure participation in the Stronger Connection grant from 2023-2026 meets the following requirements:

  • District will designate a team that meets periodically to review behavior and health and safety data (including feedback from students, parents, families, and educators) to make decisions for school-wide prevention practices. 
  • District team will engage in data-based decision making that monitors and assesses safe and healthy activities, and will participate in Safe and Healthy Schools training.
  • District will complete surveys, forms and record-keeping procedures per grant requirements.
  • District will provide time and/or stipends for staff to participate in ongoing training and technical assistance.
  • District will participate in all aspects of training and technical assistance associated with Stronger Connections starting in 2023 and continuing through the 2026 school year. District will ensure activities and practices are delivered with fidelity and data are used to inform decisions.
  • District agrees to follow all federal requirements of the Stronger Connections grant. Funds are to be used in accordance with Title IV, Part A of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) to provide students with safer and healthier learning environments.
  • District agrees that all grant expenditures meet the supplement, not supplant requirement (ESEA section 4110); maintenance of effort requirement (ESEA section 8521); and the requirement to provide equitable services to private school students and personnel (ESEA section 8501 et.seq).
  • District will provide reporting as requested by the Arkansas Department of Education - Division of Elementary and Secondary Education and the U.S. Department of Education.


The DESE will award up to $9,378,149 in competitive Stronger Connect grant funds after July 1, 2023. All grant expenditures must meet the supplement, not supplant requirement (ESEA section 4110); maintenance of effort requirement (ESEA section 8521); and the requirement to provide equitable services to private school students and personnel (ESEA section 8501 et.seq).
The DESE will reimburse following the same reimbursement schedule for Federal Programs.

Source of Funds:

Districts must archive written justification for each expenditure that reflects the expenditure is reasonable, necessary, allocable, and supplemental.

Technical Support

Technical SupportDateAccess
Commissioner's Memo COM-23-xxx

Grant Management

For support or additional information contact:

Primary ContactWhitney Bordelonscg@ade.arkansas.govPhone: 501-371-3471
Secondary ContactBrad Morrison scg@ade.arkansas.govPhone: 501-683-5424