The Minnesota Department of Education gave back a $375,000 federal grant this month to an Inver Grove Heights charter school after initially suspending the funds because the school had violated the state's teacher-license requirements.
The department fined Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy, known as TiZA, $140,000 last year for employing eight teachers who did not have valid teaching licenses or permits.
State officials initially found 14 teachers not in compliance.
TiZA's appeal of the state's determination is before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
After the violation, the department suspended the school's Federal Charter Schools Program Dissemination Grant, which the school received last March, said Bill Walsh, spokesman for the Education Department. The purpose of the two-year grant is for the charter school to train other schools how to implement its strategies, he said.
TiZA, which also has a campus in Blaine, reapplied in December for the grant and removed its English Language Learners program from the application, Walsh said. The school's ELL program is where the teacher licensure violations occurred, he said.
Earlier this month, the department reinstated the grant. The state has not administered this federal grant program since 2003, which is the last time a school applied for it, Walsh said.
The charter plans to use the grant to share its instruction and reading-comprehension strategies with other schools, said Wendy Swanson-Choi, lead teacher at TiZA.
"Our focus is still the same," she said.
Although more than 75 percent of TiZA students are English language learners, the school has received high academic results in reading comprehension, Swanson-Choi said.
TiZA is soliciting applications from schools to participate in the program.
"I think they'll really see it as a great opportunity because of our high achievement," Swanson-Choi said. "We're really looking forward to working with other schools to help close the achievement gap in Minnesota. We're also looking forward to exchanging ideas."
Meanwhile, TiZA remains in the middle of legal battles.
The school has filed a lawsuit against the Education Department claiming it violated state data-practices law by not releasing public records to the school during its license investigation. The suit is pending in Ramsey County District Court.
TiZA also is defending itself in an ongoing federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota, which alleges that the tax-supported public charter school is blurring the line between religion and public education by promoting Islam.