Archives for category: Funding

David Dayen writes the blog “Unsanitized” for the American Prospect. In this post, he explains what Trump’s executive orders really do. Please open the links to see the many embedded links.

After weeks of unproductive talks with Democrats bending but the White House unyielding, over the weekend Donald Trump issued three memoranda and an executive order that, at this moment, reflect the only additional relief to the American people at a time when fiscal policy was the only thing preventing the economy from ruin.

We’ll get to what’s in these in a minute, but it’s worth noting what’s not there. The Heroes Act, House Democrats’ kitchen sink policy, added up to $3.4 trillion. According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, who get the vapors at the sight of a deficit so they ought to know, the Trump orders would provide at best $225 billion in near-term funds, and on net, just $13 billion, tops, in new budgetary outlays. Everything in the orders either shuffles existing money around or kicks payments down the road; the new spending just assumes some missed collections.

I’ve read all four documents (here, here, here, and here) and I’d say CRFB is being amazingly generous assuming that anything close to even the meager funding it outlines will actually materialize. Let’s dive in.

Unemployment: the Trump action, if it actually worked, would give unemployed Americans an $400 extra per week retroactive to August 1, down from the $600 that expired in July. Of that sum, $300 would come from a FEMA disaster relief fund, and another $100 would have to be supplied by the states, using relief funds appropriated in the CARES Act. However most of that CARES Act money is already spoken for, and cash-strapped states don’t have a lot of extra money available to contribute. So I’d say it’s unlikely the state share will be included in a majority of states. Unemployed workers themselves will get half of what they previously got.

In addition, there’s only $44 billion available from the FEMA fund for the federal share. About $50 billion was spent on the $600 enhancement in the first two weeks of July, with nearly 30 million people receiving benefits. This is half that and maybe fewer recipients as hiring increases. But at most, this gets you another 5 weeks of support; by the end of August it’ll be done, even though it’s supposed to last until December.

When recipients will actually get anything is unclear; states would have to create an entirely new program through their antiquated unemployment insurance systems. It’s first-come first-served, so early states might get a little more for their residents while states that take months to figure things out could be shut out at the window entirely. And while the unemployed endure the wait, rent and other bills are still due.

Besides all that, it’s plainly unconstitutional, as David Super explains. The Disaster Relief Program being used isn’t intended for this purpose and its ability to deliver unemployment benefits is severely limited. Violating the Anti-Deficiency Act, which this does, carries criminal penalties. But while many will grumble, who exactly will sue to block the unemployed from getting even meager benefits? Treasury Secretary Mnuchin taunted Democrats with exactly this rationale on Sunday.

Payroll taxes: Set aside that people working need far less support than those who don’t. The president cannot change tax law to cancel taxes; he can defer payments. That’s what’s being done here. Any worker making less than $104,000 per year would have payroll taxes deferred from September 1 to the end of the year. They’ll still owe the taxes; they just won’t have to pay them until January.

This is a bureaucratic nightmare for employers, many of whom will likely opt to either keep paying them, or put them in an escrow account. Otherwise, they’d have to garnish a worker’s entire paycheck in January to cover back payroll taxes. My expectation is that this has next to no stimulative effect at all.

Trump says he wants to “terminate” these taxes if re-elected; he would need Congress to agree. It’s a political ploy to bribe the electorate, but if businesses just hang onto the money to avoid future fallout it won’t even work as a bribe. And Democrats are screaming that these taxes fund Social Security and Medicare and cancelling them would hasten a crisis (of course Congress could just, you know, fund Social Security and Medicare, and crisis solved.)

Evictions: This is just vaporware, the order just says that health officials should consider an eviction ban and that the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Treasury Department should see what they can do about helping renters and mortgage borrowers with funds to stay in their homes. That’s it. The federal moratorium only covered a handful of cases anyway; this is more useless than that.

Student loans: Of the four orders this is the most useful, as it extends an existing forbearance for federal student loans. Again, borrowers would still owe the money eventually, but it’s somewhat useful to be relieved of the burden now. What this shows is that the Education Department has a lot of discretion to let these loans go uncollected indefinitely, if they choose, to say nothing of the authority to cancel student loans. Trump is proving the concept.

It was a grave error to hold off on critical priorities until “the next bill,” after all the leverage was squandered. These Pelosi hagiographies are embarrassing in the context of her blowing the chance to secure ongoing relief throughout the pandemic. Whoever replaces Pelosi when she leaves doesn’t have to repeat these mistakes, as long as they learn from them.

I was on Democracy Now today talking about these orders as well as the war on the postal service, and you can watch that at their website.

A teacher in the District of Columbia wrote about the hidden scandal in public education: crumbling buildings.

She writes:

For all the debate about why schools should not open … the most obvious elephant in the room is invisible or just a footnote in most discussions. Yes… schools are crowded, yes… the government is not giving timely funding for the necessary PPE and such… and there are SO MANY reasons I could provide as to the dangers at this current time from early childhood issues to teen issues. But the glaring one involves a problem that has existed LONG before the pandemic, but would now be impossible “to fix” in order to make schools safe to open this fall.

US public school buildings are falling apart and have been for years. My school has a rampant mold problem. Two years ago we had a terrible rainy summer and came back to see that the mold was no longer hidden and just “peeking through, but rather was everywhere. I had a giant black clump of black mold on my ceiling in one spot where there is always moisture under normal circumstances. Mold was everywhere – hallways, classrooms, floors…. Was there mold abatement? No. They took ceiling tiles out, cleaned cursorily here and there for “cosmetic appeal”. They finally closed the school down over a weekend in mid fall and turned up all the heaters on high and opened windows and doors all weekend. The spores may have gone into dormancy – that is all. They would perk up as soon as pipe condensation started up when the AC came on in spring. At the end of the school year summer school was held at my school and the can was pushed further down the road for repairs and abatement.

That “road” never came. The custodian was told by his superiors to just replace ceiling tiles. I would regularly spray the obvious mold patch in my ceiling with hydrogen peroxide (bought on my own dime) knowing that this mold could not be healthy for little ones lungs!

Why bring all this up? Our school also has heat and AC issues… filters not fitting properly when replaced etc. My school is NO DIFFERENT than so many public schools in America. Even if the government did give over funding (even right away in March) it would take years to bring the buildings up to safety standards under normal conditions. All kinds of respiratory illnesses abound in my school and schools in other areas of the country too (have teacher friends in different places). This vulnerability would make our young as well as staff even more vulnerable in a very dangerous time.

So, do we send our students back to schools that make them vulnerable under ordinary circumstances? I have a feeling that S. Korea and schools in Europe are paying attention to school infrastructure so it really is a matter of organizing space, schedules to reduce numbers of students at any one time and adding PPE and cleaning.

NOT IN AMERICAN SCHOOLS… they are unsafe to begin with. This is the big elephant in the room.

Thank god my region made a smart decision and very early and set the tone for the entire metro DC/VA/MD area.

This story in the Middletown (Connecticut) Press shows that charters in the state debated whether it was ethical to take federal money intended to help small businesses and nonprofits that might go bankrupt. Some took the money, others decided against it. The Connecticut Charter Schools Association encouraged the state’s charter schools to go for the money. Among those that did were members of large charter chains supported by billionaires.

Note the comments of Rep. Bobby Scott, chair of the House Education Committee (and a DFER favorite), who sees no dilemma, and of Connecticut’s Rep. Jahana Hayes, who acknowledges the ethical problem.

Journalist Emilie Munson writes:

As the coronavirus reshapes education, over half of Connecticut’s 22 charter schools received Paycheck Protection Program loans this spring and summer, collecting a total of at least $12.5 million to $16.5 million in federal support unavailable to traditional public schools, a review of Small Business Administration data and school board minutes shows.

The popular forgivable loans proved a source of division among charter school administrators, some of whom thought it was improper for the schools to apply for the money, while others said it was irresponsible not to….

Bruce Ravage, founder and executive director of Park City Prep in Bridgeport, applied for a PPP loan in July, after learning more about the program and realizing he would be “crazy” not to, he said. The school recently was approved for a loan of $441,000, he said.

“We’re a business that serves a very, very needy population of students and I want to be sure that I have the resources available to provide whatever it is going to take,” Ravage said. “There are corporations that have a lot more money than us that applied for this.”

Tim Dutton, director of Operations at the Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, said his school chose not to apply for a loan because it did not lose revenue or lay off employees during the pandemic, and they knew they would receive federal emergency funding.

“The decision on the Paycheck Protection Program was really just the ethical one. I didn’t think it was about bailing out schools,” Dutton said. “PPP would not be appropriate as it would look like ‘double dipping.’”

On May 13, the school board of Great Oaks Charter School in Bridgeport voted against applying for a PPP loan, believing the school was likely ineligible because it was still receiving a steady stream of state and federal funding, school board minutes show. Just over a month later, the school was approved for a PPP loan of $350,000 to $1 million, SBA data shows…

When asked about PPP loans for charter schools, House Education and Labor chairman Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., said his priority is simply securing funding for public schools, adding he does not want to “draw red lines all over the place.”
A member of the committee and former 2016 National Teacher of the Year, Rep. Jahana Hayes, D-5, said however she wants to “push for effective guardrails that prevent charter school waste, fraud and mismanagement.”
“Far too often, malicious actors in the charter school industry siphon much needed funds away from public education and from students in need,” Hayes said in a statement. “Public charter schools accessing both pots of relief funds amounts to double dipping and feeds into the skepticism and criticism that so many have surrounding charter schools. Applying for funds both as a school and a nonprofit drains resources from the public schools and communities that need it most, undermines student’s ability to learn, and threatens the very promise of equal education.”

Baptistnews.com reported this important piece of information. Private schools have scored billions from the Paycheck Protection Program. This represents a massive transfer of public funding to private and religious schools. Of course, this fulfills a major policy goal of the Trump administration.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State reviewed federal records and calculated that private schools collected billions of dollars from the Paycheck Protection Program, which was enacted to save small businesses at risk of going bankrupt.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State has long considered public funding for religious schools, which comprise 67% of all American private schools, to be both bad policy and contrary to Constitutional intent. Americans United’s analysis of the data released by the Small Business Administration on PPP loans of $150,000 or greater reveals that Congress has already given private religious and secular schools funding totaling between $2.67 billion and $6.47 billion. PPP funding comes in the form of forgivable loans, which were intended to provide financial assistance to small businesses and nonprofits to recover from the pandemic. As long as the private schools meet certain criteria, like using the loan for payroll and operational expenses, the loans will be forgiven by the government in their entirety, essentially turning the loans into grants.

Leonie Haimson writes that charter schools in New York City cleaned up with the Paycheck Protection Program, even none of them lost their secure government funding.

Payday!

Leonie writes:

In NY State there are 144 charter schools and management organizations that received PPP funding, the vast majority of which are in NYC. Fully 108 NYC charters and charter management companies received between $102 million and $236 million in these funds, with an average of between $940,000 and $2.2 million each.

The Charter Management Organization of New Visions and its assorted charters received between $6.7 million and $15 million dollars, despite the fact that they receive public school space free of charge and services from DOE. In 2018, they also received a $14 million grant from the Gates Foundation to “work with” NYC public schools — which to this day have not been identified. Coincidentally or not, the Gates Foundation director of K12 schools Robert Hughes came to the Gates Foundation from New Visions.One of their schools, New Visions Charter HS for the Humanities II, will be receiving an extra amount of between $2,000 and $4,000 per student, based upon their total enrollment last year of 496.

Harlem Children’s Zone was awarded between $4 million and $10 million, with Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy II receiving between $1,800 and $4,500 per student, based on their total enrollment last year of 1,093. The Hebrew Language Academies, heavily subsidized by billionaire Michael Steinhardt, received between $2.8 million and $6 million. One of their schools, Harlem Hebrew Language Academy, is receiving between $1,400 and $2,900 per student, based on their planned enrollment of 696 last year. Harlem Village Academy West Charter School received between $2 million and $5 million, from $2,200 to $5,500 per student based on last year’s enrollment of 902.

Williamsburg Charter High School was given between $2 million and $5 million, a total of $2,000 to $5,000 per student based on their enrollment last year of 963. Brilla College Preparatory Charter Schools received between $1 million and $2 million, $1,400 to $3,000 per student based on their enrollment of 677. Pave Academy Charter School, founded by the son of billionaire Julian Robertson, was awarded between $1 million and $2 million, equaling about $2,000 to $4,000 per student based on their enrollment last year of 490.

KIPP charter and KIPP LLC (which I guess is its Management Organization) is getting between $3 million and $5 million, despite also receiving $86 million from a federal charter school grant in 2019, and many millions more previously. Uncommon Charters, which has been criticized for its abusive disciplinary practices, received between $2 million and $5 million in PPP funds. The full state and city list is below.

So are charter schools public or private? Depends on where the money is.

Sarah Jones is an amazingly perceptive writer who has trained her sights in the real crisis in American education: not low test scores, but underfunding and stark disparities of funding.

Her latest article is brilliant. It begins:

Andrew Worthington’s public school was in trouble even before the coronavirus struck. “We have lead in the pipes,” the Manhattan-based English teacher said. “We have all sorts of rodents. There’s soot in the ventilation system. The bathrooms are constantly out of service.” When school is in session, Worthington said, most classes have over 30 students. About 80 percent of the student body qualifies for free and reduced lunch, and many lack the tech they now need to keep up with classes.

After the pandemic turned classrooms dangerous, Worthington’s students faced widening gaps. The iPads the school handed out could only do so much. “It’s hard for them to write essays on a tablet,” Worthington observed.

Like any natural disaster, the pandemic is a stress test for our systems and institutions. It locates their weak spots, and presses until something snaps. Public education could be its next casualty, advocates and experts told Intelligencer; a victim not just of the virus, but of something older and more deliberate, too. America’s public schools haven’t been properly funded for years. Twenty-nine states spent less on public education in 2015 than they did in 2009, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has reported. Local governments in 19 states cut per-pupil spending over the same time period; elsewhere, small increases couldn’t make up for drastic, state-level reductions. If schools buckle now under the weight of the pandemic, lawmakers bear much of the blame.

With school back in session, administrators and teachers alike must stretch already scarce resources to meet new demands. If school buildings reopen at all, social-distancing demands smaller class sizes and more teachers. If schools keep classes virtual, poor students need tools that their districts might not be able to afford. Because the pandemic helped spawn a recession, schools also face crippling cuts as state and local tax revenue contracts. A new report from the American Federation of Teachers projects a funding gap of $93.5 billion for pre-K–12 education, and an additional $45 billion gap for higher education. Unless Congress and Donald Trump can agree on a rescue package, the union estimates that around one million jobs for pre-K–12 educators will disappear.

Maybe no one could have prevented coronavirus, or something equally drastic, from transforming public life and public schools. But the situation didn’t have to be quite so dire, said Diane Ravitch, an education historian and the founder of the Network for Public Education. “We have been through a long period of devaluing public education, especially the education of children who are poor,” she told Intelligencer by email. “High-wealth communities invest in their schools. In poor neighborhoods, where children have low test scores, politicians have opened charter schools and offered vouchers, which saps funding from schools that need it most.”

Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the National Education Association, put matters in even blunter terms. “I hear the word ‘chronic,’ and that’s a good word,” she said. “But there’s another word that has to be put with it, and that’s ‘intentional.’” Lawmakers, she added, “are intentionally, chronically underfunding our schools.”

Jan Resseger takes Trump and DeVos to task for ignoring the needs of students and adults in their headlong rush to reopen schools to prop up the economy in time for the election.

In contrast to Obama, who reacted to the Newtown massacre with compassion, our current leaders are indifferent to the risks they seek to impose on other people’s children.

Resseger cites some of the best articles that describe the disparate impact of the pandemic.

Ellie Mystal wrote in The Nation:

“We have not gotten anything right when it comes to caring for our children. We were not getting things right before the coronavirus pandemic; we did not get things right at the outset of the crisis; and as we hurtle towards the fall, we are on the verge of getting things dangerously, irreparably wrong again… It didn’t have to be this way. If we had successfully done the work of stopping the spread of the virus, as has been done in other countries, we wouldn’t have to pick which poison to expose our kids to… Meanwhile, just last week, President Donald Trump worried that CDC guidelines for protecting our children were too ‘expensive.’… And so, we are here. I wouldn’t let my children eat candy handed out by this administration. There are snakes with better parental instincts than these people.”

What’s missing from the Trump-DeVos response is empathy and simple decency.

Mercedes Schneider was absolutely delighted to learn that ProPublica created a search engine so that anyone could learn where the federal $660 billion or so was spent.

Mercedes is a master at following the money, and she guides you here to show that you can do it too!

She writes:

During the coronavirus pandemic, with the federal government offering Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to businesses and nonprofit organizations, ProPublica has once again delivered a marvelous search engine enabling the public to easily investigate which companies and nonprofits have received federal money in the form of loans ranging from $150K to $10M, including charter and private schools and other education organizations.

Public schools were not eligible to apply for PPP, but that did not stop charters, which claim to be public schools (but aren’t) from taking what they could get, without regard to need.

One can use the ProPublica PPP search engine to verify, for example, that Democracy Prep Louisiana Charter School received between $350K and $1M on April 28, 2020, from Sterling National Bank in order to retain zero jobs.

Mercedes also noted that the elite private school Sidwell Friends in D.C. (where the Obama girls attended school) received a forgivable loan of $5-10 million.

PPP was a vast sum of money ($660 billion). Those on the know feathered their nests. But public schools, faced with demands to reopen and diminishing state taxes, were not eligible. Public schools received $13.2 billion from the CARES act, which Betsy DeVos ordered them to share with charter schools and private schools. The charters got vastly more money than public schools, first from the CARES act, then from the $660 billion PPP.

Smells fishy. Looks bad. Are charter schools public schools? If they are, they should not have sought and received PPP.

Laurie Roberts is a columnist for the Arizona Republic who has written frequently about frauds in the charter and voucher sectors. When I was writing Slaying Goliath, I found her reporting and her sharp to be invaluable. She read Carol Burris’s article about the Network for Public Education study of charters that double dipped in two different pots of federal funding, and she thought that their greed was ridiculous.

As Congress considers the next economic stimulus package, it’s worth mentioning that America’s charter schools snagged at least $925 million in emergency funding from the Paycheck Protection Program, according to an analysis by Network for Public Education.

In Arizona, 100 charter school operations bagged anywhere from $40 million to nearly $100 million in emergency funding, the analysis of U.S. Small Business Administration records shows.

That’s a lot of stimulation, economically speaking. Especially when you consider that the losses at publicly funded charter schools are largely a figment of the federal government’s imagination.

Unlike small businesses that saw their operations fall off a cliff when COVID-19 hit, Arizona taxpayers fund Arizona’s charter schools.

Charters already getting state, federal aid

Not only have charter operators received their regular per-student allotments of state money, they are eligible for a share of the hundreds of millions of dollars in CARES Act funding that is being pumped into public schools to cover added costs due to COVID-19 and budget shortfalls.

So, what losses?

The Arizona Charter Schools Association sent me a statement saying charter schools were concerned this spring that the coronavirus would lead to state budget cuts, requiring them to lay off teachers.

“Charter schools have not only faced questions about the uncertainty of the state budget, but also seen steep declines in charitable fundraising and programs such as before-and after-care – which are important revenue sources for our schools and students,” the statement said. “These federal funds have provided financial assistance to eligible recipients, as Congress intended.”

No word on how many of those schools returned the money when those state budget cuts didn’t happen.

Roberts notes that more than 400 charter schools had the decency not to apply for money they didn’t need.

But:

Among the 100 charters that went for the windfall was – surprise! – American Virtual Academy. The management company, which runs Primavera Online School, snagged somewhere between $2 million and $5 million in PPP money.

This is the same company whose CEO, Damian Creamer, managed to pay himself a combined $10.1 million in 2017 and 2018 out of taxpayer money set aside to educate students. Never mind that fewer than a third of his students couldn’t read or do math at grade level or that nearly half were dropping out.

Creamer’s education technology company, StrongMind, also scored a $2 million to $5 million forgivable loan from the PPP program, according to The Arizona Republic’s Lily Altavena. Meanwhile, Verano Learning Partners, which was founded by Creamer and lists the same address as American Virtual and StrongMind, snagged a PPP payout of $150,000 to $350,000.

The AFT keeps close watch on legislative action. I thought you might want to read what Randi wrote about Mitch (The Grim Reaper, as he calls himself) McConnell’s bill in the Senate. There’s not nearly enough funding to enable schools to open safely, and Republicans managed to stuff a voucher package into what is supposed to be a coronavirus relief bill. Would someone tell these Republican senators that the overwhelming majority of their constituents send their children to public schools? At a time of fiscal crisis, why do they want to take money away from public schools and give it to religious schools? Has anyone ever told them that every state voucher referendum has failed? Do they know that the latest referendum in Arizona went down by 65%-35%?

Randi writes:

Mitch McConnell finally released his bill today. I’m sure you’re not surprised, but the bill is bad. Simply put, it doesn’t match the scale of the crisis. I’m getting ready for the AFT convention, which starts tomorrow, but I wanted to make sure you heard about McConnell’s bill tonight.

What McConnell is proposing for education is woefully inadequate given the expenses schools will face to reopen safely. It also falls dramatically short by ignoring what schools actually need to reopen safely and, instead, prioritizes the president’s political agenda, tying the funding to in-person instruction and pushing for private school vouchers. And there is no money for states and no protections for healthcare workers.

Can you believe it? The GOP is actually using the pandemic to try to pass vouchers, because they couldn’t get them passed before. To rub salt in the wound, while this proposal includes no protections for workers on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, it does include a nice bailout for corporations and other employers to limit their liability if employees get sick on the job.

The Senate needs to hear from you right now. Send a letter to your senators and tell them that McConnell’s bill is bad.

While we’re going to be focused on our convention for the next few days, we still need to keep up the pressure on coronavirus relief legislation.

For those who are interested in our convention, it’s going to be exciting. We’ll have Joe Biden, Lin-Manuel Miranda, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a panel on Black Lives Matter, Diane Ravitch, Anand Giridharadas, and more.

You’ll be able to watch the programming on our website. And tomorrow night, I’ll be doing a Facebook live town hall with Dr. Anthony Fauci at 6:45 p.m. EDT.

I know we’re all busy, but I just want to thank you for consistently taking action. We’ve driven tens of thousands of emails and phone calls to the Senate. Let’s keep it going and stop McConnell’s bad bill.

In unity,

Randi Weingarten

AFT President