In the latest example of corporations cashing in on students, charter school companies across the country have been taking pandemic-crisis aid meant for small businesses. In Los Angeles, Gabriella Charter Schools, with only two schools, applied for and is set to receive a $1.3 million loan from the federal CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
“Charters claim to be ‘public schools’ when that’s where the money is,” says education scholar and author Diane Ravitch. “But when the money is available for small businesses, they claim to be small businesses. Public schools aren’t eligible for the federal money. But charter schools are.”
In the Public Interest (inthepublicinterest.org) reports that privately operated charters are applying for PPP funds in addition to the $200 million set aside in April for large corporate charter school chains by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
Others caution that COVID-19 has given corporations and corporate-backed groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) another opportunity to undermine public education. Economist and local school board member Gordon Lafer notes in an interview in the Institute for New Economic Thinking (ineteconomics.org) that tech company offers to provide free digital solutions to distance learning during the pandemic, for instance, are comparable to “coke dealers handing out free samples.”
In the Public Interest and the New York Times recently reported that 70 percent of Oakland charter schools applied for and received nearly $19 million in forgivable PPP loans intended for small businesses and nonprofits, despite having no loss of state education funding.
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