Carol Burris and Greg LeRoy analyzed public data about federal CARES Act funding and discovered that nearly 60% of the city’s charter schools received Paycheck Protection Program funding, which was intended to help small businesses survive the pandemic, when so many teetered on the verge of bankruptcy. Someone slipped in an opening for nonprofit organizations, and charters cashed in, along with their management companies, even though they suffered no loss in funding.

Consequently, public schools received an average of $720 per student (which was almost nullified by Cuomo’s budget cuts), while the charters with PPP got four times as much federal money, and their management company also cashed in.

Burris and LeRoy write:

Yet despite that windfall in extra funding, 59% of New York City charter schools that directly received PPP funds have not yet given kids the opportunity to come back to school. And 60% of the schools controlled by PPP-endowed CMOs have not opened for in-person instruction either. It’s ironic that, in the sector that touts the virtues of school choice, so many charter schools are failing to provide that choice to the families they serve.

Here are some examples. Six New Visions Charter High Schools each received a forgivable PPP loan. Four of them received between one and two million dollars each, while two received between $350,000 and $1 million. Board minutes for New Visions charters acknowledge accepting PPP for four schools, including a reference to a discussion regarding the risk to “public relations” of keeping the money. Those minutes, however, reveal neither the exact amount each school received, the PPP dollars received by two additional New Visions schools, nor the $2 to $5 million that the New Visions charter management organization itself received.

Based on student enrollment figures combined with mid-range dollar amounts, those six schools received, on average, $3,139 per pupil in ESSER plus PPP monies, versus the $720 per pupil given to New York City public schools by the CARES Act — a pro-charter bias of more than four to one. And that does not include the funding given to the New Visions CMO.

Other big CMOs cashed in as well. KIPP New York, LLC and Uncommon charter schools each received between $2 and $5 million. Their schools are still closed for in-person instruction. Aside from schools run by CMOs, we estimate that the New York City charters that directly got PPP plus ESSER funds received, on average, over $3,500 per pupil in emergency federal funding. As these schools save money by teaching remotely, it is reasonable to ask where that double-dip extra money is going.