Our Initiatives

Frequently Asked Questions

Eligibility

  1. My school is planning to build an addition to our existing facility for recreational or other ancillary space. Are we eligible?

The Spark Opportunity Grant Program aims to spur development of new educational facilities (new construction or substantial renovation of a building into classroom space). Additions for recreational and other ancillary space, and minor renovation projects, are not competitive. 

  1. My school has already broken ground on our project. Are we eligible?

Schools that have broken ground on their project have already completed the conceptual planning, feasibility, and preconstruction and capital strategies work (i.e. securing financing commitments) that the grant is intended to support. These projects will generally not be competitive. (One exception is schools that have begun demolition or other site work on a site in an Opportunity Zone and are seeking grant funds to explore Opportunity Zone equity investment.)

  1. We are an adult education charter school. Are we eligible?

This grant opportunity is for K-12 charter schools. Adult education charter schools are outside the scope of this program. 

  1. We are a single site, single school looking to expand to a second site in our community. Are we eligible?

Single site, single schools with at least one year of operating history are eligible to apply. If a new charter or charter amendment is required for the expansion, schools must have applied to their authorizer for the additional seats/facility. Priority will be given to schools that have an approved charter for the proposed expansion.Schools are not expected to have a national presence.

  1.  We are a growing Charter Management Organization (CMO). Are we eligible to apply? Can we apply for more than one project?

Experienced CMOs that are expanding in a geographic market they already serve are eligible and encouraged to apply. CMOs may apply for more than one project and must submit an individual application for each proposed project.LISC anticipates awarding no more than two grants per CMO/operator.

If a CMO is applying for grant funds to support a new school entity, in the application please indicate the legal name of the new school or, if not available, indicate as “middle school 2,” for example.In this case, please provide the supporting documentation (audit, school report card) for the CMO or other appropriate proxy school. Please explain further in the Project Rationale section of the application.

  1. We are a newly chartered school in the ‘planning year’ of our charter contract.  Are we eligible?

No. Applicants must be existing schools with at least one year in operation (i.e. open and serving students in school year 2018-2019).

  1. We are planning an expansion; do we need approval from our authorizer to add grades before applying for the Spark Opportunity Grant Program?

Yes, if a school needs a new charter or charter amendment to serve additional students/grades, schools must have applied to their authorizer for the additional seats/grades before applying for a grant.Priority will be given to schools that have an approved charter for the proposed expansion.

  1. If my school has been the recipient of another LISC grant or loan, am I still eligible to apply for the Spark Opportunity Grant?

Yes, schools that have received a different grant or loan from LISC can apply with an eligible project.

  1. Will the ownership status (e.g., purchasing a facility vs. leasehold improvements) of a proposed facility affect eligibility?

Both scenarios are eligible.  However, in both cases, the project should be new construction or substantial renovation of a facility. Minor/cosmetic improvements will not be competitive.  

Eligible Uses & Disbursement

  1. Can we apply for a grant to reimburse us for predevelopment costs we’ve already incurred?

No. Reimbursement for costs already incurred is not an eligible use of grant funds.Schools must outline planned grant expenses in the application. If a grant is awarded, grant funds must be used for the expenses identified in the application.

  1. How will the grant be disbursed?

The grant will be reimbursement-based.  Once a school is approved for a grant, schools can request grant disbursements to reimburse them for the costs identified in the grant application. Schools will be required to submit proof of payment of these expenses. 

Grantee Expectations

  1. Do we have to repay the grant when we close on construction financing? 

No. Spark Grants are a philanthropic endeavor to support schools’ planning for new facilities.Schools will not be required to repay the grant.

  1. What are the required deliverables and required reporting?

Schools will be required to report to LISC during the grant term (one year) and will be required to provide a final report in the form of a ‘facility plan’ for their project. This deliverable should incorporate the findings from and progress made as a result of the grant activities and provide a strategy (or scenarios) to develop and finance the project. Grantees will also be required to report specifically on contacts made with various Opportunity Zone stakeholders, i.e. local economic development officials, potential investors, OZ funds, etc.

Opportunity Zones

  1. How do I look up the Opportunity Zones in my community?

Please use the following link and enter your location (existing school, project site, or broader geography): https://plcy.mp/fNx1Rcq

  1. Is the Spark Opportunity Grant only available for the planning and development of facilities that are located in designated Opportunity Zones?

The Spark Opportunity Grant Program is not limited to schools with an identified site in an Opportunity Zone.  However, LISC will prioritize applicants that are pursuing a site in or are considering sites in Opportunity Zones based on the students the school serves and intends to serve.  LISC will consider the location of existing school(s), current student demographics, student catchment areas and other context provided in the school’s grant application to understand the viability of locating in an Opportunity Zone.  Spark is intended to help schools evaluate sites in OZs as potential locations and explore the feasibility of Opportunity Zone investment.

Contact Information and Updates

    16. How can I stay up to date on the Spark Opportunity Grant Program?

For the latest updates on the Spark Opportunity Grant Program join the Spark Opportunity Grant mailing list.

    17. If we have questions regarding the application guidelines, who can we send them to?

In order to find answers to your questions you can visit our Spark Opportunity Grant Program website here: https://www.lisc.org/our-initiatives/education/charter-school-financing/spark-opportunity-grants/

If the answer is not on our website, please email sparkopportunity@lisc.org.