This week is National Charter Schools Week, and LISC is pleased to announce a second round of $800,000 Spark Opportunity Grants to 21 persevering charters schools across the country—schools that have demonstrated their commitment to educating diverse populations of students and to organizational and academic excellence. The awards will help these schools pursue renovations or build new permanent facilities.
LISC Charter School Financing Celebrates National Charter Schools Week with the Announcement of the Second Round of Spark Opportunity Grant Recipients
This National Charter Schools Week, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation is proud to announce the recipients of the second round of Spark Opportunity Grants. The Spark Opportunity Grant Program was created to support the planning and predevelopment activities of high-performing charter schools looking to undergo substantial renovations or expand to a permanent facility. The program provides grant awards from $15,000-$50,000 for schools that are building facilities in order to meet community demand for high-quality educational facilities. The inaugural round of Spark Opportunity Grant Awards granted $1.2 million to 26 charter schools across the country. In this second round, we were able to award $800,000 to 21 schools.
Grantees have a demonstrated track record of academic, financial, and operational excellence, as well as a commitment to working with diverse communities. The projects receiving the Spark Opportunity Grant will help create 8,500 additional charter school seats upon completion. Spark Opportunity Grants are supported by $2 million from the Walton Family Foundation and are part of the foundation’s Building Equity Initiative, which supports efforts to make it easier and more affordable for public charter schools to find, secure and renovate facilities.
While National Charter Schools Week is typically a time for celebration, this year’s theme, Above and Beyond, highlights how charter schools have been able to continue to meet the needs of their communities, even amidst a pandemic. Schools are facing new challenges and navigating completely unchartered waters. Over the past few months, charter schools across the country have had to completely transform the way they educate students. Schools have had to prioritize the well-being of their students, families, and communities in addition to transitioning to remote learning. Teachers have spent countless hours adapting lesson plans to a virtual format. Schools in LISC’s portfolio have helped their students acquire internet, necessary technology equipment, physical learning aids, schedules, learning plans, as well as food and mental health supports.
In addition to the short-term challenges associated with a transition to remote learning, schools are also contending with a number of long-term challenges. All schools will need to make financial, human capital, and operations adjustments to contend with likely funding cuts for the next school year. Charter schools, specifically, under strained budgets post-COVID-19, will also face mortgage or rent payments that traditional public schools do not have. Charter schools normally meet these additional financial obligations by fundraising, unfortunately due to COVID-19 these events can no longer take place. Amidst all these obstacles schools still continue to plan for the future.
As schools continue to persevere, we at LISC will continue to support their operational success and plans for growth. A lot of work remains ahead of us, but we must continue to prioritize what is best for students, families, and school communities. We want to highlight that the Spark Opportunity Grant Program is not the only resource we have to offer to charter schools. LISC has expanded our programming and flexibility in order to continue supporting our partner schools. CSF continues to advocate for equitable funding for public charter schools, particularly at the Federal level under the CARES Act. CSF continues to lend for construction financing across the nation. Our lending team also continues to extend flexibility to our existing borrowers who may need it during this trying time. Through SchoolBuild, we are able to connect schools to resources that can answer more general questions about the facility process. And through SchoolPrint, we are able to provide hands-on, personalized technical assistance to charter schools that are contending with unanticipated project delays or stoppages. SchoolPrint’s experts are uniquely positioned to help schools understand how they should adjust their facility projects in the wake of COVID-19.
During these trying times, it is important to work together and check our privilege. This is not the time to talk about returns on investment. The impact of COVID-19 has put the spotlight on the fact that schools are much more than just a building. Schools are a home, schools are meals, schools are access to opportunities, schools are places where relationships flourish and imaginations grow. This National Charter Schools Week, we must look at COVID-19’s impact from our human lens: what does this mean for our students and families in the short and long term? How is this affecting both the physical and mental health of our students and families during this traumatic time? We must prioritize what is best for our students and families.
We will continue to work where we can and how we know best. We support all COVID-19 response funding, advocate for equitable funding for charter schools across the nation, and amplify the experts and resources that fund what schools say they need the most. Above all, we support our schools, our teachers, and our students and families; now, and forever. To this end, we want to hear from you, please reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let us know how we can support your charter school.