LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — Local charter schools have received millions in paycheck protection program loans — money traditional public schools were not able to apply for — leaving some parents crying foul.
“Are they a public school or are they a business,” Tracy Cook, a Los Angeles Unified School District public school parent, said. “Are they a fish or are they a foul? Who can guess?
Several local charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately owned, received forgivable PPP loans meant to help struggling businesses stay afloat during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“Granada Hills High got $5-10 million,” Cook said. “How many small businesses would have been kept afloat, where employees would have had protected paychecks, in that $5-10 million?”
According to documents released by the federal government, Granada Hills Charter, Bright Star Schools and Birmingham Charter High School all received between $5-10 million.
Citizens of the World Charter, Da Vinci Schools, iLEAD Charter Schools, Larchmont Charter and Palisades Charter High School all received between $2-5 million.
“I hear time and time again that charters are not businesses, and if they’re not, then why are they able to get this money,” Vicky Martinez, mom of four LAUSD students, said. “Just give everybody the same amount. Give everybody the same, equal fighting chance.”
But a spokesperson for the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools says charters have to pay for costs that traditional public schools do not.
“So most people have no idea, for example, that charter schools, which are all public schools, have to actually pay for their facilities, they have to pay rent or a mortgage for the buildings that they’re in,” Debbie Veney said. “They have to pay for transportation and they have to take this out of their operating costs.
“In this moment, we did whatever was necessary to continue serving students and doing it well.”
The CARES Act allotted $13.5 billion for primary and secondary public education, including independent charters, but traditional public schools were not eligible for the funds.
“It’s not fair, it’s not equitable,” Emiliana Dore, an LAUSD parent, said. “And, again, I keep saying it, but the majority of minority kids in Los Angeles and low-income kids in Los Angeles attend their local public schools, and I think that we should be doing everything we can to support those schools.”
CBS Los Angeles reached out to all of the charter schools mentioned above, but only heard back from one who could not be reached by deadline.
Several local private schools also received PPP funding, including some of which charge upwards of $30,000 in tuition.