North Carolina has won a federal grant totaling $23.6 million over five years to expand charter school opportunities.

Dave Machado, state Office of Charter Schools director, announced the awards Wednesday, Oct. 3 during the monthly meeting of the State Board of Education. Machado told board members the state has tried to win the grants over the past three years.

North Carolina is one of eight states to receive the Expanding Opportunities through Quality Charter School Program grants from the U.S. Department of Education. The other states are Michigan, Arkansas, Idaho, New York, Arizona, Delaware, and Colorado.

“We are really excited about this possibility,” Machado said. “It gives all our charter schools the ability to expand and lower the barriers that we are often accused of having, rightfully so or not, but this is very exciting. The $23.6 million will be fantastic for our students and families of choice in North Carolina.”

The federal grant will be divided into four sub-grants. One will assist new charter schools, which will serve a large economically disadvantaged student population during their planning year. Another will assist charter schools in their first three years of operation serving a large economically disadvantaged student population. The third grant will assist high-quality charter schools that want to expand to serve more low-income students.

“North Carolina’s charter schools should be laboratories of innovation, proving grounds for ideas that can be scaled across all our schools and all student populations,” State Superintendent Mark Johnson said in a news release. “This funding will allow schools to better serve our students in the most need and increase the diversity of students served by charter schools.”

The application deadline for charter schools to apply for the grants is early next spring. Awards will be announced by the end of the school year. North Carolina has 185 operating charter schools, and eight more plan to open next year.