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Charter schools — publicly funded but privately operated — received full public funding through the 2019-20 school year and will maintain the same funding for 2020-21. However, while many small businesses have struggled during the pandemic, charter organizations also applied for and received funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), leaving the public to cover the same bill twice.

In the Public Interest and Parents United for Public Schools in Oakland analyzed Small Business Administration data released in early July and found that California charter organizations received between $240.7 million and $565.6 million in PPP loans, in addition to their full funding as public schools.

“We have money for small businesses, we have money for schools,” says ITPI senior policy adviser Clare Crawford. “When they’re using both sources for the same need, it’s doing a real disservice to the community.”

Specifically:

  • 268 PPP loans were awarded to charter organizations representing a total of 420 charter schools.
  • Only 35 percent of PPP loans to charter organizations benefited independently managed schools, while 65 percent benefited charter schools affiliated with charter school chains.
  • Some chains accessed PPP funds by circumventing a rule disallowing application by entities with over 500 employees. For example, California’s Learn4Life chain has 1,900 employees, but accessed up to $51 million through 12 PPP loans to various business entities. Scandal-plagued Inspire Schools accessed up to $29 million by applying individually for 11 different schools plus its parent organization, despite having 1,300+ employees.

For more, including a searchable database of charter schools that received PPP loans, go to inthepublicinterest.org.