Amid the coronavirus pandemic, charter schools in Connecticut accepted loans from the Small Business Administration Payment Protection Program (PPP). The paycheck protection program is a federal program, implemented during the coronavirus pandemic, that provides loans to small businesses to incentivize them to keep their workers on payroll. They come with low interest rates, two to five years to pay back the loan, and no small business fees. None of these loans were available to traditional public schools, as they are not considered businesses.
The Achievement First Charter Network in Connecticut, as well as other public charter schools, have received $12.5 million to $16.5 million from the PPP. Here is the problem: while traditional public schools also received COVID relief funds from the CARES Act, they did not have access to additional PPP funds.
The identity overlap that charter schools have allowed them to receive this additional funding. Charter schools are a public service and receive public funding, but because they are also privately operated, they can operate as a small business nonprofit. This should not be the case. They already receive other emergency funds from the government in the form of the CARES Act, which takes away funds that otherwise would have gone to traditional public schools.
Charter schools chose to identify as a business in order to receive these loans. However, they also identify as public schools to secure public funding. Regardless, they still produce income for those investing in the charter network.
Charter schools argued they should have received the PPP funding because of anticipated budget cuts. Diane Tavenner, chief executive of charter network Summit Public Schools , believes that funding is even more imperative because school budget cuts increased by 10% in the 2021-2020 school year. They argued that they serve at-risk and low-income student populations, and can’t afford the potential risk of not serving their students. Is this not also true for traditional public schools?
Many traditional public schools in Connecticut also serve a low-income population. While charter schools get to thrive on multiple forms of federal funding, traditional public schools do not receive all the funding they need to function effectively. The current pandemic has exacerbated the issue and decreased state revenue across the country, leading to budget cuts for the next academic year. Old textbooks, slow running computers, safety, and underpaid teachers are just a few ways public schools suffer from a lack of funding. The continuous lack of funding is a neglect of these students’ education.
This just comes off again as charter schools manipulating their identity to suit their goals of securing more money. Large charter networks also still received a flow of funding from philanthropist and billionaire organizations, so they are not really as threatened by the pandemic in the same way traditional public schools are.
It is clear traditional public schools are losing in this regard as they cannot receive the mass amounts of funding that charter schools have been able to obtain in this pandemic. Charter schools have the luxury of drawing funds from wealthy philanthropists. There is a lot of federal money wasted on charter schools that would have otherwise been better suited for traditional public education.
Rafael Villa is a senior and Posse Scholar at Trinity College. He is a double majoring in Mathematics and Educational Studies. Renita Washington is a junior and Posse Scholar at Trinity College. She is majoring in Educational Studies with a focus on Early Childhood and Prison Education Reform.