Fostering equity in education through school choice

The Challenge Foundation (CF) was established in 1988 as a private charitable trust dedicated to fostering equity in education through school choice initiatives. Since the origin of charter schools in 1991, the CF took a free-market approach to finding individual charter schools that have tried to deliver a quality education to K–12 students, bringing competition to the public school market. Between 1995 and 2005, the Challenge Foundation gave over $18 million in start-up grants to 185 individual charter schools in 22 states.

Starting a Movement

In addition, the CF supported the efforts to provide private vouchers to parents looking for alternative options for their children. Working in cooperation with the Children’s Scholarship Fund founded by John Walton and Ted Forstmann in 1998, the CF sponsored a private voucher program in Portland, Oregon that awarded vouchers to 550 low-income kids, enabling them to attend their private school of choice for a 4–8 year period. During this same time period, the foundation offered other substantial grants to leverage the work of individuals supporting the school choice movement.

Building a Network

In 2004, the Challenge Foundation compiled nearly 20 years of research and insights to identify common elements and best practices that helped to make a charter school effective. This led to the founding of the first Challenge Foundation Academy (CFA) in Indianapolis, Indiana.

In 2010, the Trustees and Advisory Board of the Challenge Foundation established a new foundation, the Academy Leadership Foundation in Action (now TeamCFA Foundation) to provide long-term, meaningful support and oversight to all CFAs and to enhance the growth of the TeamCFA network. A detailed, long-term plan embodying the principles set forth in the book Forces for Good: The Six Practices of High-Impact Nonprofits was created to ensure that the network of schools would be supported in a highly effective, sustainable fashion for years to come. In addition, Challenge Foundation Properties was established to provide access to high-quality facilities and cost-effective building solutions for Challenge Foundation Academies.

The Challenge Foundation continues to support and expand its network of Challenge Foundation Academies in three regions across the nation, lending extensive support to new or existing charter schools that ensure high academic standards and championing free-market principles to create efficient, effective schools.


1988 – Challenge Foundation (CF) established as private charitable trust

1995 – CF shifts primary focus to K–12 Education Reform through grants, with an emphasis on charter schools and private voucher programs

1995 to 2005 – CF researches charter school best practices

2005 – Challenge Foundation Properties founded

2006 – TeamCFA opens its flagship Challenge Foundation Academy (CFA) in Indianapolis, IN

2006 to 2010 – CF grows the TeamCFA network to eight CFA charter schools in three regions

2010 – Academy Leadership Foundation in Action (ALFA) established

2011 – ALFA renamed TeamCFA Foundation

2012 – TeamCFA Launches the Challenge Foundation Fellowship Program to train new TeamCFA School Directors

2013 – TeamCFA network adds four schools to its network of CFA charter schools