Carl J. Petersen, writer and public school parent in Los Angeles, writes here about a Los Angeles charter schools that took millions from the federal Paycheck Protection Plan, then laid off employees anyway.

The purpose of PPP was to help small businesses and to ensure that they did not fire employees because they couldn’t afford to pay them. But charter schools, which had suffered no economic harm, cashed in on the program…because they could.

Petersen writes:

With unemployment rates reaching levels unseen since the Great Depression due to the problems caused by the failed response to COVID-19, every dollar from the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) should be going towards helping small businesses survive. Unfortunately, the charter school industry found a way to double-dip into the government trough to supplement the money they are diverting from public schools with funds from this program.

Despite acknowledging that they could be taking money away from small businesses that needed it to survive the crisis, the governing board of Palisades Charter High School voted last month to accept a $4.606 million dollar loan from the PPP. They admitted at the time that they did not have an immediate need for the money and they failed to articulate a plan to spend the money or to pay it back. They simply felt that it was important to “get the money while the getting’s good.” Discussion of the moral and financial costs of receiving this money was swept aside.

Ignoring the reason for their $4,606,000 windfall, the governing board of Pali voted this month to lay off five members of their staff and reduce the hours for 18 other employees. Even as students throughout the country struggle to transition to distance learning, these cuts included an IT Tech assigned to helping parents, students and teachers navigate the technology needed in this new learning environment. They also eliminated a Tutoring Center Coordinator whom a member of the public and a board member credited with “helping hundreds of kids pass classes and graduate from Pali during e-learning”. A Library Media Technician, Copy Clerk, and Office Assistant will also join the unemployment line in 60 days.

The federal government should “claw back” the wasted $4.6 million.