Charters taking federal pandemic business loans should pay back the money

Another day, another charter-school scandal

Ghosted Ben Franklin $100 bill. Text: Charters grab $1-2 billion in PPP Covid Funds

Texas AFT identified the practice as a sham when we first noted that charter schools were eligible for federal assistance loans meant to keep businesses running in the pandemic. Here was another instance of charters claiming they are public when it works their way, and then claiming they are private businesses when it works in their favor.

At question are more than $1 billion in Paycheck Protection Program Loans—that in many cases, do not have to be paid back to the federal government—handed out to charter operators. A USA Today investigation found that the vast majority of these loans went to charters that were not losing any state funding in the pandemic. The newspaper’s list of unethical actions by charters is long, but here are some examples:

  • “KIPP, one of the largest charter chains in the country, saw its bottom line swell by $27 million in fiscal 2020. However, 14 of its affiliate organizations across the country had $28.4 million in PPP loans forgiven. KIPP said its affiliates had additional financial needs.
  • “Some charter schools used the money to increase savings accounts or, in one case, hand millions of dollars to an investor.
  • “One California charter chain obtained $32.7 million in PPP loans by using 12 separate nonprofit companies that are linked to different schools to get the money. All of the loans were sent to the same address in Lancaster. The chain, Learn4Life, denied any wrongdoing.”

Most of these charters also received federal pandemic aid directed to public schools. The Network for Public Education is urging advocates to send an online letter to their U.S. senators and President Joe Biden demanding that charters pay back this money.