New report reveals that many of the nation’s charter schools are double dipping in public coronavirus aid

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 15, 2020

CONTACT: Jamie Horwitz 202-549-4921, jhdcpr@starpower.net

New Report Reveals that Many of the Nation’s Charter Schools are “Double Dipping,” Taking Millions of Paycheck Protection Dollars Intended for Small Businesses and the Unemployed

Joint Study by In the Public Interest and Parents United for Public Schools shows that in Oakland, Calif. alone 30 charter schools received nearly $19 million in federal PPP dollars meant for those in need, despite unchanged state public education funding.

OAKLAND – A new report released today shows that millions of dollars in federal relief funds intended for those in need have been siphoned off by public charter schools that have suffered no loss in state education funding while thousands of small businesses remain shuttered and their employees go without work due to the pandemic.

The report focuses on 43 charter schools located in Oakland where 70 percent of the publicly-funded but privately-managed charter schools within the boundaries of the Oakland Unified School District applied for and received federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) awards established by the federal CARES Act. Traditional public schools in Oakland and elsewhere are not eligible for PPP funding. The report, entitled Are Oakland Charter Schools Double Dipping?, was conducted by the Oakland-based Parents United for Public Schools and the non-profit research and policy center In the Public Interest.

The findings are significant because California’s open meetings laws require board meetings and the minutes of charter schools to be made public.. In most of the country, charter school finances are less transparent, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury has refused to release the names of recipients of PPP awards. The United States has 7,000 charter schools.

“This report shows the need for more oversight and transparency in the charter school sector,” said Clare Crawford, senior policy advisor with In the Public Interest. “It’s not right for charters to act like a business on Monday and a public school on Tuesday. Having it both ways leads to double dipping and unethical raids on the public till.  We deserve to have the full picture on how precious public dollars are being spent, especially now, during this time of need,” she said. “Every local public official and reporter should be asking if their charters took PPP money and how much.”

The New York Times cites the Oakland study in a story today, “Charter Schools, Some With Billionaire Benefactors, Tap Coronavirus Relief,” that finds further examples of double dipping by charter schools all across the nation and documents how the charter school industry has sought federal dollars intended for private business’ struggling due to the pandemic.

Some key elements of the Parents United for Public Schools/ In the Public Interest report  include:

  • Oakland charter schools have received a total of at least $18,909,300 in forgivable loans from the PPP.
  • Thirty charter schools have received PPP loans despite having no loss in public education funding.
  • Charter schools that received both PPP loans and CARES Act education relief funding received an average of $2,000 more per student than either Oakland Unifed School District public schools or charter schools that did not.

“It’s really concerning that so many charter schools are choosing to take these funds from local small businesses that employ Oakland families. If charter schools receive funds as a ‘public school,’ they should not then be eligible for small business loans intended to help keep families from being laid off,” said Kim Davis, a parent and co-founder of Parents United for Public Schools.

Charter schools are considered public schools under California law, as they are in many other states, yet they are also incorporated as nonprofit organizations. This has allowed them to access both public school funding and aid intended to support maintaining employment at small businesses and nonprofits.

Parents United for Public Schools is an independent, parent-led organization focused on building a strong parent voice on behalf of Oakland’s public schools. In the Public Interest is a nonprofit research and policy center that studies public goods and advocates for building popular support for public institutions that work for all of us.