What is the GCSA Incubator?
GCSA Incubator programs include workshops, trainings, and guided-study designed to help charter petitioners articulate their mission and visions through a charter petition that is submitted and approved by a charter school authorizer. Mentorships, peer groups, and networking opportunities allow participants to build meaningful connections through a wide system of resources and support. Throughout their participation in the program, participants are offered twice-monthly coaching with individualized resources that are responsive to the participant’s immediate needs. All petition components, budgets, and appendices are reviewed by GCSA Incubator staff for individual guidance and feedback. Participants are supported throughout the authorization process, planning year, and through opening for students.
What makes the GCSA Incubator different from other Charter School Incubators?
The GCSA Incubator is Georgia’s longest running and most successful charter development program. GCSA Incubator staff, supported by additional subject-matter experts, have extensive experience in charter school authorization, operation, and development and are dedicated to leveraging that expertise to support dynamic and engaging school leaders.
The GCSA Incubator works closely with participants to develop their models, enhance their design, and engage their communities to create long-lasting and academically-successful partnerships. The most successful charter schools are those designed to serve the specific needs of their students and communities. The GCSA Incubator helps petitioners design academic, financial, and operational models to meet the needs of the community and to articulate those models through a charter petition. The GCSA Incubator’s knowledge of Georgia-specific authorizer expectations and legal requirements for charter schools provides charter petitioners a significant advantage in understanding and evidencing the school’s ability to fulfill its performance expectations as required by law and the school’s charter contract.
Moreover, the GCSA Incubator provides prospective charter schools with the training, resources, and mentorship to guide petitioners through authorization and opening. The GCSA Incubator’s continuation of support through its Year Zero Program provides charter schools a firm foundation of operational support to provide additional opportunity for the school to enhance its academic model and instructional support. provides intensive hands-on training and support to charter school leaders in drafting and executing charter models with proven records of success. Individual and cohort Incubator programs are designed to develop and operationalize charter school programs in a much shorter time period than traditional Charter School Incubators. The 2024 Incubator Authorization Program begins working with prospective charter leaders in June 2024 with the aim to submit a charter petition for approval in Spring 2025 to open in Fall 2026.
What are some benefits of the Incubator?
- Engage with academic, financial, and school operational experts who will offer individualized support and guidance to help you develop your plans.
- Navigate the complex and tedious authorization process with the support of GCSA staff to overcome all procedural barriers to starting a charter school.
- Actively participate in workshops and trainings that will assist you in refining and articulating your model.
- Learn the requirements of operating a charter school in Georgia with training opportunities designed to provide detailed, Georgia-specific tools and resources.
- Relate with mentors, cohort peers, and charter supporters to provide real-world solutions to common hurdles for schools and leaders.
- Develop a facility plan and strategy, and upon authorization, a dedicated consultant will provide support through facility procurement, development, and facility approval.
- Connect with investors, charter development organizations, and grant opportunities for additional prospective funding and resource development.
I am participating in a fellowship or another incubator program that supports charter school development. Can I participate in GCSA Incubator programs at the same time?
Yes! The GCSA Incubator actively works with many partners in charter school development, and we have designed our programs to coordinate and compliment the charter development activities of common partners like Building Excellent Schools, redefinED Atlanta, and High Tech High. The Georgia-specific focus of the GCSA’s Authorization Programs to operationalize successful charter school models enhances charters that are designed in coordination with partner programs.
How do schools that receive GCSA support perform?
All schools that received new school development support from GCSA and remained in the program were authorized and all but two schools opened in accordance with authorizer standards and timelines. There are currently 9 operational charter schools that completed the Incubator path to authorization.
Who would be good candidates for the Incubator?
GCSA’s Incubator is modeled after programs that ignite innovation in start-up businesses. The GCSA Incubator is designed to support independent, self-motivated educators and business leaders with the knowledge and expertise to lead a charter school as an administrator. Successful charter school administrators are those who:
- Demonstrate the ability to inspire team members and motivate supporters;
- Evidence a visionary approach to finding new solutions;
- Build teamwork and culture that reinforces accountability;
- Commit to serving all students with a specific dedication to those most in need;
- Efficiently coordinates and manages multiple complex projects simultaneously; and
- Foster community and stakeholders for responsive collaboration.
What are the specific programs that are available?
Charter Development [see table below]
How much does the Incubator cost?
Participation in the Incubator program prior to authorization is available for $17,500. Participation in Incubator Year Zero is available for $32,000 per year inclusive of Facility Support.
The Incubator looks awesome. How can I get in and can you help me with the cost?
Given the intensive nature of Incubator support, space in each program is limited and prospective participants must apply. Fellowships and grants WILL be available, but may depend on the prospective charter school’s location, attendance zone, academic model, or other criteria. All interested applicants are encouraged to apply.
Specific eligibility requirements may vary between programs. More information regarding the application process for each Incubator program is available here [Link to Application Page]
If I join the Incubator program, what will I need to do?
Charter School authorization is complex, tedious, and laborious, and it will require a significant investment of your time and energy. The success of your petition will depend on your investment. Likewise, the Incubator, its staff, and your cohort peers also invest their time, resources, and passion in your charter. Accordingly, Incubator fellows are expected to approach developing new schools in a collaborative, respectful, and professional environment. You will be expected to meet deadlines, complete projects fully, and actively engage in program activities. Incubator fellows are expected to support each other through a strong network for personal and professional assistance.
Once approved, the school will be expected to be a member of the association. The school will have the opportunity to use a GCSA partner to handle the school’s back-office operations. This is because charter schools frequently struggle financially in their first few years of operation. Partnering with GCSA will ensure a strong financial foundation. The GCSA partner selected will also work with petitioners that are going through the incubator process with budget development support at no charge.
GCSA will also provide assistance with the grant writing process for the Charter Schools Program grant and the Walton Family Foundation.
What is the application process?
The application process for the incubator grants mostly follows the GCSA incubator selection process but there are three additional components required for incubator grant applicants. These include:
- During the application stage, there are additional questions for applicants.
- Applicants may be invited to an additional incubator grant final interview that will take place after the in-person GCSA incubator selection process.
What is the timeline?
Incubator Application opens on December 1.
The initial application deadline is Friday, March 29 (To Be Considered for All Funding Opportunities)
The 2022 application deadline is Friday, May 31. Applicants to the early application deadlines will benefit from early acceptance.