Denver charter schools that received federal small business loans due to COVID last spring do not need to forgo any future funding to offset US $ 16 million in bad loans they received, district and charter officials said.
An earlier agreement assumed that such a reconciliation would take place. It was never clear how this arrangement would work, only that the district would analyze whether the loans resulted in inequalities in funding between charter schools and traditional public schools – and that they would work to fill any gap.
But in light of the influx of other federal education benefits, Denver’s public schools have chosen not to seek reconciliation.
“This is not the same priority, and it is not as important as it was originally,” said Grant Gayer, who oversees charter schools for the district.
Guyer added that county lawyers said Denver public schools have no legal authority to force statutes to agree on funding.
The forgivable loans were made under the federal payroll protection program created by the first federal coronavirus relief bill. The goal was to help small businesses stay afloat and keep their workers busy during the pandemic.
Across the country, charter and private schools received a $ 6 billion salary protecting funding, according to Education Week… Critics of charter schools across the country objected to independent public schools receiving federal incentive money that was not provided to traditional public schools.
Denver charter schools are eligible for loans because they are operated by non-profit organizations and not by the school district. (Chalkbeat is also a non-profit organization and receives federal funding for payroll protection.) County Memorial June 2020 prepared at the request of a Denver public school board member, said 32 of the city’s 60 bylaws received funding to protect wages.
Prizes ranged from $ 5.9 million for its own STRIVE Prep network, which operates 10 schools, and $ 133,000 for CUBE, one charter high school. About a year after receiving the money, CUB is closed due to low attendance and high operating costs.
A year ago, Denver County and charter executives agreed to count any injustices caused by payroll protection funding. Any reconciliation deemed necessary – for example, bylaws receiving less than their share of subsequent federal stimulus money – had to happen by the end of the fiscal year that ended last month.
“Our charter partners are sensitive to what it means for some public schools to access public funding that is not available to all public schools,” says a June 2020 memo written by Guyer’s predecessor Jennifer Holladay, who left the area in January. “They remember how it was in their own history. They understand that today’s charter student is tomorrow’s student, and vice versa. Our students are our students. “
Charter executives told Chalkbeat that they used part of the paycheck funds to avoid layoffs at a time when the entire county faced budget deficits. The note notes that charters often have lower financial reserves and higher equipment costs than district schools, and that the charitable dollars that many charters rely on have become precarious in the face of the pandemic.
Chris Gibbons, founder and CEO of STRIVE Prep, said the federal small business agency has forgiven its network $ 5.9 million in payroll protection loans. Gibbons said he supported negotiating this funding when it was discussed a year ago, but the district subsequently decided not to pursue it.
Guyer agreed. “Over time, as additional funding came in and people kept trying to focus on supporting students as much as possible during the changing expectations during the pandemic, it just wasn’t as high a priority as it was originally,” he said.