Char­ter schools were fully en­ti­tled to re­ceive fed­eral COVID-19 loans

Chicago Sun-Times - - OPINION -

We are con­fused by your re­cent cov­er­age of char­ter school ac­cess to fed­eral loans. Amid a global pan­demic and decades of dis­in­vest­ment on the West and South sides where we serve stu­dents, the ar­ti­cle sin­gled out char­ter schools’ ac­cess to ad­di­tional fed­eral re­sources needed to serve stu­dents and keep teach­ers and staff em­ployed. Talk about mis­placed pri­or­i­ties.

The fed­eral pay­check pro­tec­tion pro­gram (PPP) made non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions el­i­gi­ble to ap­ply for a loan. Un­der Illi­nois law, ev­ery char­ter school in the state is a non­profit and there­fore el­i­gi­ble, pro­vided they can demon­strate fi­nan­cial need and meet the cri­te­ria set forth in the fed­eral guide­lines.

That is ex­actly what a small num­ber of char­ter schools did.

When the pan­demic closed school build­ings in March, many char­ter schools moved quickly to get re­mote learn­ing up and run­ning. That re­quired the pur­chase of thou­sands of com­put­ers and re­lated equip­ment. To ac­com­mo­date th­ese un­ex­pected ex­penses, char­ters had to use ex­ist­ing bud­gets and there­fore were con­sid­er­ing fur­loughs and lay­offs. The fed­eral sup­port al­lowed them to keep ex­ist­ing staff lev­els while han­dling th­ese new ex­penses.

Char­ter schools con­tin­ued serv­ing nearly 60,000 Chicago pub­lic school stu­dents with­out sub­stan­tial in­ter­rup­tion this spring. With­out those re­sources, thou­sands of Chicago chil­dren would not have had the same level of in­struc­tional sup­port.

If the ar­gu­ment is that char­ters should not ap­ply for fund­ing they were plainly el­i­gi­ble for un­der terms of the fed­eral grant, that re­flects a mis­guided zero-sum ap­proach.

Un­for­tu­nately, it also fur­thers a re­cent trend of politi­ciz­ing any­thing that has to do with char­ter schools to the detri­ment of the fam­i­lies and stu­dents who choose them. Hun­dreds of Illi­nois non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tions ap­plied for PPP sup­port and re­ceived loans. But the nar­row fo­cus on char­ter schools says more about Chicago’s po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment than it does about the facts on the ground and the needs of stu­dents and schools.

The real is­sue miss­ing here is how do all pub­lic schools — char­ters and dis­tric­trun — come to­gether to en­sure schools and ed­u­ca­tors have the fund­ing and re­sources nec­es­sary to stay safe and con­tinue to serve our stu­dents and com­mu­ni­ties who need us most. We wel­come cov­er­age that puts that is­sue out front.

An­drew Broy, pres­i­dent, Illi­nois Net­work of Char­ter Schools

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