Our Initiatives

Spark Opportunity Grants

Download the Spark Opportunity Grant Application

View our introductory webinar recording and presentation

Purpose

Through the Spark Opportunity Grant Program, LISC will provide predevelopment grant capital to K-12 public charter schools to support development of feasibility plans for new school facilities.  LISC will prioritize applicants that seek grant funding to advance a facility project in a designated Opportunity Zone. Learn more about Opportunity Zones here.

Overview

Spark Opportunity Grants help charter schools advance the real estate development and financial planning for new facilities.  LISC will award $2 million in grants to approximately 40 charter school operators to develop feasibility plans for new facilities.  Grants will range from $15,000 - $50,000 and can be used for planning and predevelopment activities in furtherance of a strategic plan for a new charter school facility.  LISC seeks to support schools in both the conceptual planning stage for a future facility and schools in active predevelopment on a site, with the goal of advancing projects toward shovel-ready, viable, financeable projects.  Priority will be given to schools that have identified a location in an Opportunity Zone or are considering locating in Opportunity Zones. Recognizing the newness, complexity and potential scale of investment associated with Opportunity Zones, the Spark Opportunity Grant Program supports operators with assessing Opportunity Zone investments as a financing strategy for their facilities project. This program is made possible with financial support from the Walton Family Foundation and program design and implementation support from Pacific Charter School Development. 

Grant Size

$15,000 - $50,000

Eligible Applicants

The Spark Opportunity Grant Program is open to established nonprofit K-12 charter schools that are planning a new school facility.  Schools must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for a grant:

  • Nonprofit K-12 charter schools in operation for at least one school year (i.e. open and serving students in school year 2018-2019). Applicants must be nonprofit schools and if applicable, managed by nonprofit Charter Management Organizations. Charter schools managed by for-profit management companies are not eligible. 
  • Planning a new school facility, i.e. new construction or substantial renovation of a building for classroom and other educational space.  Minor renovations to existing occupied school buildings and additions for recreational and other ancillary space will not be competitive.  
  • Demonstrated mission and track record of serving low-income students
  • School is in good standing with its authorizer. If the project is an expansion or replication that requires a new charter or charter amendment, the school must have applied to its authorizer to serve the students and grades that will be housed in the new facility.  Priority will be given to schools that have an approved charter for the expansion.

Examples of applicant profiles:

  • established school adding a new campus (i.e. replication)
  • established school relocating to a new facility
  • new campus for an experienced Charter Management Organization (CMO)

Eligible Uses of Grant Funds

Applicants may apply for funds to support planning and predevelopment activities including:

  • Financial capacity and affordability analysis
  • Real estate and/or financial consultants
  • Market study
  • Site search
  • Feasibility study
  • Architectural planning and design
  • Site due diligence (land use analysis, environmental assessment, civil engineering, survey, etc.)
  • Zoning and permit applications
  • Financial modeling of financing/investment scenarios

Grant Deliverable and Reporting

Each Spark Opportunity grantee will be required to produce a facility plan with project development and financing scenarios resulting from the planning and predevelopment activities supported by the grant.  Grantees will also be required to report back on specific outcomes and status of project within the grant term.  (Grant terms will be determined on a case-by-case basis based on the proposed activities and outcomes and will not exceed two years.)    

Key Dates

  • Application available and application period opens:  Tuesday, October 1, 2019
  • Application webinar: Tuesday, October 1, 2019, 2pm Eastern Daylight Time
  • Application deadline: Friday, November 1, 2019 (by midnight Eastern Daylight Time)
  • Grant awards announced: December 2019

(LISC may open a second application window in early 2020 subject to availability of funds.)

Application Form

The application form can be downloaded here:  Spark Opportunity Grant Application Form

Applicants must submit background information on their school and project as well as a detailed budget for the grant request.  

Selection Criteria

Applications will be scored based on facility planning need, school population served, mission and academic performance, community engagement, project affordability and project location.  Competitive preference will be given to schools that are considering locations in Opportunity Zones. Additional guidance on grantee selection criteria can be found here.

Spark Opportunity Grant Updates

View our press release here.

View our Spark Opportunity Grant - Introductory Webinar recording and presentation here.

Sign up here for updates about the Spark Opportunity Grant application, webinar,  and other relevant information.

Questions

View our Frequently Asked Questions for answers to your questions about the Spark Opportunity Grant Program.

Don't see an answer to your question? Please email sparkopportunity@lisc.org, we want to hear from you!

Sign up for a 15 minute technical assistance session here.

Contact Information

Sara Sorbello, Vice President of Charter School Financing: ssorbello@lisc.org

General Inquiries: sparkopportunity@lisc.org

About Us

About the Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Together with residents and partners, LISC forges resilient and inclusive communities of opportunity across America – great places to live, work, visit, do business and raise families. We invest in affordable housing, better schools, safer streets, growing businesses and programs that connect people with financial opportunity.

Since 1997, LISC has provided more than $365 million in loans, tax credit allocations, guarantees and grants to finance charter school facilities in low-income neighborhoods in 21 states across the country. Schools use this money to acquire, build, or renovate their facilities. LISC also provides technical assistance and promotes transparency of financing options to help school leaders secure affordable debt through resources like our SchoolBuild research portal.

About the Walton Family Foundation
The Walton Family Foundation is, at its core, a family-led foundation. The children and grandchildren of our founders, Sam and Helen Walton, lead the foundation and create access to opportunity for people and communities. We work in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in our home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta. In 2018, the foundation awarded more than $595 million in grants in support of these initiatives. To learn more, visit waltonfamilyfoundation.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

About Pacific Charter School Development
Pacific Charter School Development was founded with the mission to create affordable, high-quality facilities for charter schools with high academic results.  PCSD has over 15 years of charter school facilities experience across all phases of the development lifecycle – working with charter schools to acquire land, build school facilities, and match the project with affordable financing from a lender – all in the effort to bring more high-quality charter school seats to the markets that need them. PCSD has developed $828MM in total projects, leveraging philanthropy, private financing, and state funding to create 83 campuses serving over 37,000 students across multiple districts.