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