Documents to download:
Dear School Leaders,
The Small Business Administration is expected to release data today, showing which organizations received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. The names of recipients who received loans of $150,000 or more will be revealed, as well as addresses, NAICS codes, zip codes, business type, demographic data, nonprofit information and the number of jobs supported.
Rather than providing the precise dollar amounts of the loans, they will be categorized in the following ranges:
- $150,000 to $350,000
- $350,000 to $1 million
- $1 million to $2 million
- $2 million to $5 million
- $5 million to $10 million
This could generate renewed interest and fresh reporting on charter schools receiving PPP loans. In advance of the data release, the National Alliance has prepared guidance to help with possible media queries.
If you are contacted by a reporter who is writing about this story, we strongly urge you to respond. If you are uncomfortable providing an interview, it is also fine to offer a written statement. Being unresponsive will suggest there is something to hide. Since the information will be public and the funds were lawfully accessed to address emergency needs, there is nothing to gain from being unresponsive. Please do not use this as an opportunity to reinforce that charter schools are traditionally underfunded when compared with traditional public schools, as PPP loans were not intended to address ongoing funding inequities. Attached to this email, please find a communications toolkit and a template for a media statement that can be customized, in case this is helpful in providing a quick response.
The National Alliance has provided these talking points that may also be helpful:
Equity – We believe this is the most important message…
While many district schools reduced instructional time and in some cases called for a halt to all distance learning, charter schools chose to lean in and do whatever is necessary to keep educating their students, and in many cases they offered to support students outside their community.
- Charters are frequently mischaracterized as taking from the public school system – of which they are a part, and those same people who mischaracterize charter schools immediately remember we are public schools when we step up to secure the resources our students need, deserve and are entitled to under the law.
- Charter school students are disproportionately black and brown – members of the communities most affected by the current health, social justice and economic crises.
- During the pandemic, charter schools stepped up and did what was right – whatever it took to keep educating their students – extra hours, extra staff, extra resources. And that costs money. It costs money to do it right. And it’s money that was available to them under the law.
Why Did Schools Apply for the Money?
For some charter schools, this was a lifeline. Charter schools disproportionately serve underserved students who had greater needs. Sixty percent of charter schools are single site, independently run schools with small budgets. There was a real risk of layoffs because charter schools had to pay overtime to teachers, hire supplemental staff, and they were unable to do fundraising for the funds needs to cover mortgage/rent payments and utilities. Typically, charter schools receive 80% of what district schools receive in public funding and they have to raise funds to cover the rest.
Why do Charters Have Different Costs than Districts?
Single-site charters don’t have a central office staff. Paraprofessionals had to be paid out of their local budget. The PPP allowed them to do things like pay administrative staff, cafeteria workers and janitors, while still covering expenses for extra instructional needs and support for families. Charters had to take money from the operating budget to pay for extra expenses like providing internet access and digital devices.
Without the PPP funding some charter schools would have been more vulnerable to default on a mortgage or rent, or forced to lay people off. Collective bargaining agreements in district schools prohibited the number of hours teachers could work, while charter schools were able to supplement staffing and pay for extra hours needed to train staff and support students. Conversely, we saw examples across the nation where collective bargaining agreements were used to justify cutting work hours and time for instruction.
LA Unified District is just one example of how a collective bargaining agreement was used to pull back on instructional time.
Guidance to Schools from the National Alliance
The Alliance has always stated clearly that if schools don’t need it, then they shouldn’t apply for it. Schools were advised to consult with their attorneys and accountants and determine whether it was the right thing to do. The National Alliance provided important information to charter schools who were struggling financially, but the determination of a crisis was made at the operator level.
Was it “double dipping?”
For certain charter schools the PPP funding was an absolute lifeline. There are about 1700 charters that sit under LEAs and have no guarantee of receiving any portion of the $13.5 billion in CARES Act emergency funding the K-12 schools. They had immediate expenses that many districts do not have – paying rent, hiring substitute teachers, and paying overtime hours for their teachers working to provide student support. Many district schools had CBAs that limited the amount of hours that teachers could work. In some instances, they used those CBAs to halt instruction all together. Charters had the flexibility to lean in and do whatever was required in that moment to make sure students had what was required for distance learning. Often, that meant extra hours and teachers had to be compensated for it.
Charter Schools are Public Schools
Charter schools are public schools that qualify for this emergency assistance. The PPP was not only set up for small businesses – it was also set up for nonprofits. We believe appropriators had an understanding of the complexity of charter schools, and that’s why they were not prohibited from receiving relief funding. District schools have other options available like taking out bonds.