Archives for category: Funding

The office of Senator Bernie Sanders released the following statement about President-Elect Biden’s coronavirus relief plan:

BURLINGTON, January 14 — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement regarding President-Elect Biden’s plan to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis:

“President-Elect Biden has put forth a very strong first installment of an emergency relief plan that will begin to provide desperately needed assistance to tens of millions of working families facing economic hardship during the pandemic. The president-elect’s COVID-relief plan includes many initiatives that the American people want and need, including increasing the $600 direct payments to $2,000, and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. As the incoming Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, I look forward to working with the president-elect and my colleagues in Congress to provide bold emergency relief to the American people as soon as possible.”

President-Elect Joe Biden released his comprehensive plan to control the pandemic and help the economy, families, students, and schools. The attached PDF has the full plan. This is the section that pertains directly to schools.


Provide schools the resources they need to reopen safely. 


A critical plank of President-elect Biden’s COVID-19 plan is to safely reopen schools as soon as possible – so kids and educators can get back in class and parents can go back to work. This will require immediate, urgent action by Congress. The COVID-19 pandemic created unprecedented challenges for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education, and the students and parents they serve. School closures have disproportionately impacted the learning of Black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities and English language learners. While the December down payment for schools and higher education institutions was a start, it is not sufficient to address the crisis. President-elect Biden is calling on Congress to provide $170 billion — supplemented by additional state and local relief resources — for K-12 schools and institutions of higher education. These resources will help schools serve all students, no matter where they are learning, and help achieve President-elect Biden’s goal to open the majority of K-8 schools within the first 100 days of his Administration. 

● Provide $130 billion to help schools to safely reopen. Schools need flexible resources to safely reopen and operate and/or facilitate remote learning. The president-elect’s plan will provide $130 billion to support schools in safely reopening. These funds can be used to reduce class sizes and modify spaces so students and teachers can socially distance; improve ventilation; hire more janitors and implement mitigation measures; provide personal protective equipment; ensure every school has access to a nurse; increase transportation capacity to facilitate social distancing on the bus; hire counselors to support
students as they transition back to the classroom; close the digital divide that is exacerbating inequities during the pandemic; provide summer school or other support for students that will help make up lost learning time this year; create and expand community schools; and cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and support students. These funds will also include provisions to ensure states adequately fund education and protect students in low-income communities that have been hardest hit by COVID-19. Districts must ensure that funds are used to not only reopen schools, but also to meet students’ academic, mental health and social, and emotional needs in response to COVID-19, (e.g. through extended learning time, tutoring, and counselors), wherever they are learning. Funding can be used to prevent cuts to state pre-k programs. A portion of funding will be reserved for a COVID-19 Educational Equity Challenge Grant, which will support state, local and tribal governments in partnering with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders to advance equity- and evidence-based policies to respond to COVID-related educational challenges and give all students the support they need to succeed. In addition to this funding, schools will be able to access FEMA Disaster Relief Fund resources to get reimbursed for certain COVID-19 related expenses and will receive support to implement regular testing protocols.

 ● Expand the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. The president-elect’s plan will ensure colleges have critical resources to implement public health protocols, execute distance learning plans, and provide emergency grants to students in need. This $35 billion in funding will be directed to public institutions, including community colleges, as well as, public and private Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions. This funding will provide millions of students up to an additional $1,700 in financial assistance from their college. 

● Hardest Hit Education Fund. Provide $5 billion in funds for governors to use to support educational programs and the learning needs of students significantly impacted by COVID-19, whether K-12, higher education, or early childhood education programs.

Read the full pdf here.

Good Jobs First has studied the distribution of COVID relief funds in depth. It created a site called COVID Stimulus Watch. It published an article about the depth of corruption in the Trump administration, which distributed COVID relief funds.

In this post, the researchers at Good Jobs First reveal the federal funding in the Paycheck Protection Program for all 50 states, distributed to charter schools, religious schools, and private schools.

As you review the funding for your own state, please bear in mind that public schools received an average of $134,500 each. Also, public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP funding. Charter schools were, however, allowed to get a portion of the public school funding and then to apply for PPP funding as if they were small businesses.

Check out your own state. You will find that elite private schools with high tuition and large endowments received grants that often were millions of dollars.

Ed Johnson, fearless advocate for public schools in Atlanta, obtained a list of the charter schools in that city that received Paycheck Protection Program funding from the first CARES Act. Public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP funding. But charters were, because…they are not public schools!

After reviewing the millions in CARES money that went to Atlanta charters, Ed Johnson wrote to members of the Atlanta Board of Education:

Atlanta Board of Education members:

Some of you are, of course, pro-school choice and pro-charter school, thus serving contrary to your sworn Oath of Office vis-à-vis the Charter of the Atlanta Independent School System.

Nonetheless, hopefully all of you now know and understand the truth that charter schools in Atlanta are not Atlanta public schools, to wit:

https://mailchi.mp/4c303dcdd2b5/updated-aps-charter-school-businesses-rake-in-millions-of-ppp-loan-dollars

Thus:

·         Public schools must be spoken truthfully of as public schools, and as public goods.

·         Charter schools must be spoken truthfully of as charter schools, and as private businesses and corporations.

·         Partner schools must be spoken truthfully of as partner schools, and as public schools the Board outsourced to private businesses and corporations.

Just three types of school, thank you.

Ed Johnson

Advocate for Quality in Public Education

Atlanta GA | (404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com

As noted in the link in Mr. Johnson’s letter, here are a few of the big winners of federal dollars (they also received a proportionate share of the meager dollars allotted to public schools, so they were double-dipping in both funds):

  • Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, Inc., received a PPP loan in the amount of $4,822,200.00, based on the business needing to protect 408 reported jobs, which figures to $11,819.12 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 1670 Benjamin Weldon Bickers Drive SE, Atlanta, GA 30315.
  • The Kindezi Schools Atlanta, LLC, received a PPP loan in the amount of $3,855,982.00, based on the business needing to protect 300 reported jobs, which figures to $12,853.27 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 950 Joseph E Lowery Blvd, Atlanta, GA 30318.
  • Atlanta Neighborhood Charter School, Inc., received a PPP loan in the amount of $1,850,000.00, based on the business needing to protect 120 reported jobs, which figures to $15,416.67 per reported job.  SBA reported the business as being located at 688 Grant St SE, Atlanta, GA 30315.

Unlike small businesses which lost revenue and were forced to lay off employees or close their doors, charter schools never lost revenue during the pandemic. Their stream of government revenue never was cut off. Meanwhile, as they sucked up CARES dollars, hundreds of thousands of small businesses that needed the money went bankrupt and closed forever.

No public school received this large amount of money. The average public school received $134,500 in federal aid in the first CARES Act.

As you probably know by now, charter schools took federal money from two different pots in the CARES Act passed last spring. They got a share of the money allocated for public schools, then had the privilege of getting more money from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to save small businesses in danger of shuttering their doors.

Now there is new relief Act, which is far more generous to public schools, but still allows charter schools to count as both public schools and not-public schools.

Carol Burris did research on the new CARES Act (which she calls CARES2) and found that once again charters will be allowed to double-dip.

On December 21, Congress passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021.

CARES 2 (which I am dubbing the Act for simplicity) includes $54.3 billion for K-12 schools, which is about four times more than the last bill. It will be allocated to states to give out as subgrants to Local Education Agencies (LEAs). LEAs are school districts as well as the majority of charter schools. Those charter schools that are not independent of a school district will receive their funding in the same manner as district schools.

According to the law firm Arnold and Porter, which has an excellent summary of the Cares 2 here,  “Like the requirements in the CARES Act, the Secretary of Education must allocate ESSERF (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund) funding based on the state’s share of Title I, Part A funds under ESEA, and states will allocate at least 90 percent of funds as subgrants to Title I schools.”

There is also more leeway on how funds can be used—practically, schools can use it for any activity allowed under federal law.

There is an additional pot of money ($4 billion) that the Secretary of Education will distribute. $1.3 billion can be used by the Governors for public schools and higher ed institutions that were the hardest hit by the pandemic. $2.75 billion can be distributed by governors to private schools. Congress expressly prohibits in the Act the use of any of that money to fund vouchers or tax credits for tuition. The funds must be used to keep the school going, and private schools with high-needs students get priority. 

Can private schools and charter schools dip into the SBA’s Payroll Protection Plan (PPP) funding again? 

Private schools that get money from the $2.75 billion cannot. The CARES2 specifically says they cannot double-dip.

However, there is nothing to prevent a charter school from double-dipping, that is, getting both the ESSERFand PPP2. PPP2 will allow charter schools that are first-time borrowers to apply without stipulation. Suppose the charter received PPP in the first round. In that case, they could apply again if they show a 25% decline in revenue. 

In the first round, charter schools received at least $1.5 billion dollars in PPP. Once again, public schools get the short end of the stick. 

Last spring, when the pandemic began crippling the economy, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act). It was a rare moment of bipartisan action. Included in the act was the Paycheck Protection Program, which offered $660 billion to help small businesses weather an economic catastrophe in which many would be forced to close their doors and lay off their employees. The PPP would enable these businesses to pay their employees and survive the pandemic.

However, in the inevitable lobbying, someone added nonprofits to the list of organizations eligible to receive government aid under the PPP.

The PPP grants are called loans, but they are forgivable if used for payroll, rent, heating, and other expenses. It’s unlikely that any will be repaid.

Public schools were not eligible to apply for PPP, because they received a fund of $13.2 billion, which they were required to share with charter schools. Charter schools, however, were eligible to apply for PPP as “nonprofits,” meaning they could double dip into both funds. Over 1,200 charter schools got very generous payouts, with some collecting more than $1 million. The average public school received $134,500 from the CARES Act.

Private and religious schools flocked to the PPP and collected far more than public schools. An organization called Good Jobs First created a website called Covid Stimulus Watch to see who got the money. They estimated that private, religious, and charter schools collected nearly $6 billion from PPP, about six times more per school than public schools.

While the federal PPP was scooped up by charter schools, private schools, and religious schools, more than 110,000 restaurants closed, ending the employment and income of many hundreds of thousands of employees, while wiping out the life savings of thousands of owners.

To understand how incredibly generous the Treasury Department was in handing out PPP money to private and religious schools, you should review the list of grants that are attached, representing awards in four states: New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Michigan. You will be stunned to see the amounts collected by religious schools and elite private schools. The data were collected by Mellissa Chang of Good Jobs First. If you are wondering about your own state, you can contact her at mellissa@goodjobsfirst.org.

You can get the pdf for the New York data here.

You can get the pdf for the Massachusetts data here.

You can get the pdf for the Ohio data here.

You can get the pdf for the Michigan data here.

Steve Hinnefeld warns that Republican legislators in Indiana are laying the groundwork to expand the state’s failed voucher program. The research on vouchers in many states has been consistent: Students who use vouchers fall behind their peers in public schools. Those who continue to push vouchers are either ideologues, religious zealots, or paid to do so. We know that they don’t help students. Increasingly the students who take vouchers already attend religious schools or planned to, and they are getting public money to pay private tuition.

Indiana legislators like to fund failure.

Don’t be surprised if lawmakers try to expand Indiana’s already generous private school voucher program in 2021. They’re signaling their intention with the issues surveys they send to constituents.

At least eight House Republicans include this question in their surveys, which are posted on their internet sites: “Do you support increasing the income eligibility for Indiana’s CHOICE scholarships, giving more low- and middle-income families the option to send their children to the school that best meets their needs?”

Note that the question contains a falsehood. Increasing the income eligibility for vouchers, officially labeled Choice Scholarships, won’t change anything for low-income families. They already meet income qualifications for the program, which provides state funding for private school tuition.

Under current law, students can qualify for vouchers if their family income is less than 150% of the threshold for reduced-price school meals. They remain eligible if their family income rises to 200% of the reduced-meal level. For a family of five, that’s $113,516, two times Indiana’s median household income.

In other words, low-income families and many middle-income families already meet the income requirements. According to the 2019-20 Indiana Department of Education voucher report, a quarter of voucher recipients came from families that made over $75,000 and 7% made over $100,000.

The suggestion in the survey that vouchers let families choose schools that meet their children’s “needs” is also questionable. Surveys have found that many voucher parents choose private schools primarily because they provide religious training, not because their children have unique needs. Research has shown that voucher students who leave public schools for private schools typically fall behind academically.

Last spring, you may recall, the CARES Act included $13.2 billion for public and charter schools. In addition, $660 billion was allocated to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses and nonprofits that were struggling to survive due to the pandemic. Public schools were not allowed to apply for PPP. However, many charter schools learned through their lobbyists that they could apply for PPP. In other words, they double-dipped. They took the $134,500 or so that was available in the initial allotment for each public school. Then they went to the PPP and took another bite, which was far bigger than the funding allowed to public schools.

Which raises the interesting question: Are charter schools “public schools” or are they small businesses or private nonprofits? After all, public schools were not allowed to ask for PPP money, but over a thousand charter schools struck gold.

Nevada has a reputation for some of the worst charter schools in the country, but that doesn’t matter. Some of its charters really hit the big time with PPP funding. In 2015, CREDO investigator Margaret Raymond said to charter leaders in Ohio: “Be very glad that you have Nevada, so you are not the worst.”

PPP awards ranged from $168,500 to the online charter Leadership Academy of Nevada to $4.6 million to Doral Academy to support its five brick-and-mortar campuses in Southern Nevada. Many of the forgivable loans were coordinated and handled by the same entity, Academica Nevada, a regional branch of the Florida-based for-profit company that manages some 200 charter schools nationwide and has a strong presence in Nevada.

The charters that qualified for PPP money did so because they are incorporated as nonprofits, something Nevada law allows them to do. Even pre-pandemic, being a nonprofit is often financially beneficial because it opens up additional funding opportunities, such as grants through the federal Charter School Program.

Scan the list in the article: Democracy Prep received $1 million; Odyssey Charter Schools, $2.28 million; Pinecrest Academy, $4.6 million; Sports Leadership and Management Academy (SLAM), $800,000. Pinecrest and SLAM are part of the for-profit Academica chain; SLAM was started by rapper Pitbull, widely celebrated for his misogynistic lyrics.

Joe Biden was very clear about his position on privately managed charter schools during the campaign.

In this video, he was asked by Lily Eskelsen Garcia what he would do about charter schools, and his position was clear: Charter schools should not be funded at the expense of public schools. No federal funds for privately funded charter schools. Charter schools should be subject to the oversight and governance of school boards. Charter schools should be held to the same standards of transparency and accountability as public schools.

Will he keep his promises?

I posted a delightful article by Jennifer Raab, President of Hunter College, celebrating the importance of public higher education, which has provided opportunity to so many students from low-income and immigrant families.

A faculty member of the City University of New York wrote to say that budget cuts are strangling the promise of public higher education.

He wrote:

Public education requires more than cheerleading: right now, we also need advocates who are willing to fight for it. And while Virginia may have been an impressive alumna of Hunter College, this year Governor Cuomo has held back 20% of CUNY funding based on an expectation of a dramatic state shortfall. While the shortfall has been much less than predicted, the cuts to public education have occurred anyways. 

At Hunter and other CUNY schools, those cuts have meant heavy lay-offs of adjunct faculty. Their courses have been cancelled and, as a result, students are being squeezed into over-crowded classes. A course that, a year ago, might have worked with 30 students in person, this semester will have 40 students in a Zoom room. That’s nowhere near the level of teaching and engagement that Virginia received. And that’s a real tragedy.


In a year in which our public officials have insisted they will fight for greater equity, we need leaders who will fight for the country’s largest public university to be fully funded and its students to be given the quality of education they deserve. We need leaders who don’t only celebrate CUNY’s past, but demand that its traditions of providing a first-rate education for all New Yorkers be maintained in the present and into the future. And if that requires fighting, let’s insist that they take up that battle.