Archives for category: Funding

Have you lost faith in our elected officials? Let me introduce you to my personal hero. Rosa DeLauro. I have met with her several times, and she was always attentive and thoughtful. I love her values, and I love her too. It’s a very small tribute to this great woman, but I take this opportunity to add her to the blog’s honor roll for standing up forcefully to the bullying of the charter lobby.

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is one of the most powerful members of Congress. She is a Democrat from Connecticut. She is an outstanding liberal who fights for children and working people.

Please read her bio.

Rosa DeLauro is the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District, which stretches from the Long Island Sound and New Haven, to the Naugatuck Valley and Waterbury. Rosa serves as the Chair of the House Appropriations Committee and sits on the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, and she is the Chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, where she oversees our nation’s investments in education, health, and employment.

At the core of Rosa’s work is her fight for America’s working families. Rosa believes that we must raise the nation’s minimum wage, give all employees access to paid sick days, allow employees to take paid family and medical leave, and ensure equal pay for equal work. Every day, Rosa fights for legislation that would give all working families an opportunity to succeed.

Rosa believes that our first priority must be to strengthen the economy and create good middle class jobs. She supports tax cuts for working and middle class families, fought to expand the Child Tax Credit to provide tax relief to millions of families, and introduced the Young Child Tax Credit to give families with young children an economic lift.

Rosa has also fought to stop trade agreements that lower wages and ships jobs overseas, while also protecting the rights of employees and unions. She believes that we need to grow our economy by making smart innovative investments in our infrastructure, which is why she introduced legislation to create a National Infrastructure bank.

Rosa is a leader in fighting to improve and expand federal support for child nutrition and for modernizing our food safety system. She believes that the U.S. should have one agency assigned the responsibility for food safety, rather than the 15 different agencies that lay claim to different parts of our food system. Rosa fights against special interests, like tobacco and e-cigarettes, which seek to skirt our public health and safety rules.

As the Chair dealing with appropriations for Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education, Rosa is determined to increase support for education and make college more affordable for more American students and their families. She is also fighting to protect the Affordable Care Act so that all Americans have access to affordable care. Rosa strongly believes in the power of biomedical research and she is working to increase funding so that we can make lifesaving breakthroughs in science and medicine.

Rosa believes that we have a moral obligation to our nation’s veterans and their families, and her concern for these heroes extends to both their physical and mental well-being. Rosa supports a transformation in how the Department of Veterans Affairs is funded, including advanced appropriations for health services, to ensure its fiscal soundness; and she successfully championed legislation to guarantee that troops deploying to combat theaters get the mental health screening they need both before and after deployment, as well as championed legislation that now provides assistance to today’s Post-9/11 veterans choosing to pursue on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs.

Rosa belongs to 62 House caucus groups and is the co-chair of the Baby Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Food Safety Caucus.

Soon after earning degrees from Marymount College and Columbia University, Rosa followed her parents’ footsteps into public service, serving as the first Executive Director of EMILY’s List, a national organization dedicated to increasing the number of women in elected office; Executive Director of Countdown ’87, the national campaign that successfully stopped U.S. military aid to the Nicaraguan Contras; and as Chief of Staff to U.S. Senator Christopher Dodd. In 1990, Rosa was elected to the House of Representatives, and she has served as the Congresswoman from Connecticut’s Third Congressional District ever since.

Rosa is married to Stanley Greenberg. Their children—Anna, Kathryn, and Jonathan Greenberg—all are grown and pursuing careers. Rosa and Stan have six grandchildren, Rigby, Teo, Sadie, Jasper, Paola and Gus.

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Biography

Download Congresswoman DeLauro’s Official Photo

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro and I in 2018: My hero.

Andy Spears of the Tennessee Education Report informs his readers that the state has a budget surplus in excess of $ 2 billion. It also has public schools that are perennially underfunded. How will the state spend the surplus?

He writes:

A state with one of the lowest investments in public education in the country now has a record budget surplus. This, of course, means Tennessee could make great strides in shoring up an education budget that can best be described as severely lacking without raising taxes one dime. In fact, investing in schools with new state money would also have the added benefit of keeping local property taxes low. It’s a policymaker’s dream.

That’s why Gov. Bill Lee has announced his definitive TISA plan – Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement.

Apparently, a key element of that plan was just announced today:

While we’re on the subject, let’s examine the reality of Lee’s TISA school funding plan:

A $500 million investment in a domed stadium in Nashville for the Tennessee Titans.

Sure, that really has nothing to do with student achievement or funding schools or anything at all related to education. It does, however, continue a trend of placing just about everything else above public schools when it comes to Lee’s priorities.

First, it does nothing to shore up the shortage of teachers needed to adequately support students now. That is, according to both TACIR and the Comptroller, Tennessee districts hire MORE teachers (11,000 more, to be exact) than the current formula funds. Guess what? TISA does nothing to change that. There is no indication that the weights will mean more teachers hired and supported by state funding.

Next, TISA does nothing to boost overall teacher pay. Sure, TISA “allows” lawmakers to earmark certain funds to give raises to “existing” teachers, but that doesn’t mean they will. Nor does it mean those raises will be significant. This year’s $125 million set aside for teacher compensation will mean what is effectively a 2-3% raise for most teachers. Based on current inflation rates and rising insurance premiums, this essentially amounts to a pay cut.

While the plan doesn’t address the shortage of teachers or teacher compensation or local costs for hiring/retaining teachers, it does raise local property taxes.

Open the link and read how Governor Lee will ingeniously raise property taxes, build a shiny new domed football stadium, and shortchange the school children of Tennessee. All while sitting on a huge surplus.

Education advocates put a measure on the ballot in Arizona to raise taxes on the highest-income taxpayers to increase education funding. Voters passed the measure. But a judge struck it down because it exceeded the state constitution’s limit on taxation. This report comes from the Center on Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University.

AZ JUDGE INVALIDATES PROPOSITION THAT WOULD HAVE BOOSTED FUNDING FOR EDUCATION

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah has ended the nearly two-year controversy swirling around the constitutionality of Proposition 208, a measure recently adopted by the voters, by ruling last month that the measure is invalid. The Proposition would have boosted the income-tax rate for high income earners by 3.5%, with the money directed primarily to salary increases for teachers and school support personnel. But the judge ruled last month in Fann v. State, that the money the Proposition would raise would exceed the amount permitted by the state’s constitutional spending limit.

The Arizona Supreme Court had indicated that allocation of funds for education under Prop. 208 would likely contravene the Education Expenditure Clause of the state constitution, a constitutional cap that was adopted in 1980. The case had been remanded to the trial court to calculate whether, as most observers anticipated, the amount raised by the proposition would, in fact, exceed the cap.

Ohio knows charter schools. A lobbyist for the charter school industry wrote the law. Charter schools are mistakenly called “community schools.” Most charter schools in the state are failing schools, but that does not dim the enthusiasm of the GOP legislature for them. Ohio welcomes for-profit charter schools. Charters drain money from public schools.

For the first time in the history of the federal Charter Schools Program, which started in 1994, the federal U.S. Department of Education has proposed regulations to exclude for-profit management of charters that seek federal funding to expand and to require charters seeking federal funding to present a summary of their charter on the locality where they plan to open.

Jan Resseger, who lives in Ohio, sent the following appeal to her followers.

Please Support the Proposed USDOE Rule Changes for the Federal Charter Schools Program

Submit a comment supporting the Department’s new stronger regulations. You can submit your comment HERE, and you must submit the comment before April 13, 2022.

Please read Ohio Public Education Partners’ explanation of an urgently important development that requires our immediate attention. The U.S. Department of Education has published a notice in the Federal Register proposing new rules to strengthen oversight of the federal Charter Schools Program (CSP). It is urgently important for each one of us to write and submit a formal comment expressing support for stronger oversight of the Charter Schools Program.

First, even though the Elementary and Secondary Education Act forbids the allocation of federal dollars to for-profit charter schools, the owners of for-profit charter management organizations (CMOs) have learned how to get around the law. The U.S. Department of Education has proposed to stop the misallocation of federal Charter Schools Program (CSP) dollars to for-profit charter school management companies that hide behind the nonprofit charter schools they manage under sweeps contracts.

Second, when a charter school asks for Charter Schools Program startup funds, the Department has declared its intention to require a community impact statement to ensure that there is a need for a new charter school in the community and that the school won’t promote racial segregation. Neither should rapid expansion of charter schools undermine urban neighborhoods. The most serious consequence of out-of-control charter school expansion has been evident in large cities, where charter schools advertise lavishly to attract families from public schools.

Here is the language of the two urgently important rules the U.S. Department of Education proposes to add:

First — “Each charter school receiving CSP funding must provide an assurance that it has not and will not enter into a contract with a for-profit management organization, including a non-profit management organization operated by or on behalf of a for-profit entity, under which the management organization exercises full or substantial administrative control over the charter school and, thereby, the CSP project.”

Second — “Each applicant must provide a community impact analysis that demonstrates that there is sufficient demand for the proposed project and that the proposed project would serve the interests and meet the needs of students and families in the community or communities from which students are, or will be, drawn to attend the charter school, and that includes the following: (a) Descriptions of the community support and unmet demand for the charter school, including any over-enrollment of existing public schools or other information that demonstrates demand for the charter school, such as evidence of demand for specialized instructional approaches. (b) Descriptions of the targeted student and staff demographics and how the applicant plans to establish and maintain racially and socio-economically diverse student and staff populations, including proposed strategies (that are consistent with applicable legal requirements) to recruit, enroll, and retain a diverse student body and to recruit, hire, develop, and retain a diverse staff and talent pipeline at all levels (including leadership positions).”

Please submit a comment supporting the Department’s new stronger regulations. Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the complicated language and presentation of the new rules in the Federal Register. Begin your comment by thanking the Department of Education for strengthening long-needed accountability in this program. In simple prose, explain your support for each of the proposed new rules for the Charter Schools Program. In your comment, if you like, you may quote the language (above) of each rule followed by your reason for believing the new regulation is so important. Your comment may be as long or as short as you like—a few sentences or several paragraphs. Longer comments must be submitted as attached documents.

You can submit your comment HERE, and you must submit the comment before April 13, 2022.

If you are not planning to write your own comment, you may send the Network for Public Education’s action alert letter, but I urge you to personalize your letter by adding a few sentences of your own.

Jan Resseger

 

Recently, a pro-voucher organization released a report claiming that vouchers save money. The National Education Policy Center assigned the report to two scholars, and they found that the report’s claims were untrue. In addition, numerous studies have shown that students who use vouchers are likely to fall behind their peers in public schools, especially in mathematics. If you care about educating the next generation, vouchers are a big step backward.

BOULDER, CO (March 15, 2022)—A recent report from EdChoice argues for expansion of policies that publicly fund private schools, contending that private schools could provide equal or better outcomes at lesser cost. A review released today examines the report’s methodology to determine the soundness of its claims, and it finds the cost-saving estimates to be based on unsubstantiated assumptions.
Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis of Teachers College, Columbia University reviewed Fiscal Effects of School Choice: Analyzing the Costs and Savings of Private School Choice Programs in America, and found its accounting procedures to be based on conjecture.

The report asserts that voucher and voucher-like (tax credit scholarship and education savings account) programs have saved state and local treasuries some $12.4 to $28.3 billion dollars as student “switchers” use those programs to leave public schools and enter private schools. The report claims that the purported savings result from the lower numbers of students in public schools coupled with lower variable per-student costs.

However, Huerta and Koutsavlis point out that the cost-saving estimates of private school choice programs are based on speculative assumptions. In particular, the report guesses in estimating the number of switchers across programs and for determining resulting variable cost fluctuations. With some limited exceptions, states operating these private-school subsidy programs do not track the previous enrollment status of students who use the vouchers to subsidize their enrollment in private schools. Such lax accountability standards mean that the number of switchers and estimated fiscal savings are necessarily based on conjecture.

Consequently, the report’s findings do not provide a sound base for policy decisions. Huerta and Koutsavlis provide suggestions for more detailed accounting procedures and more nuanced methodologies for calculating reliable variable student costs.


Find the review, by Luis A. Huerta and Steven Koutsavlis, at:
https://nepc.colorado.edu/thinktank/fiscal-effects
Find Fiscal Effects of School Choice: Analyzing the Costs and Savings of Private School Choice Programs in America, written by Martin Lueken and published by EdChoice, at:
https://www.edchoice.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/The-Fiscal-Effects-of-School-Choice-WEB-reduced.pdf

Whenever the school choice lobby in Arizona submits a new bill, you can be sure it will help charter schools, not public schools. As the legislative session winds down, a bill has been introduced to change the state’s funding formula. Charter schools would benefit, but many public schools, especially rural schools, would lose..

Mary Jo Pitzl writes in the Arizona Republic:

A major overhaul of school funding in the name of equitable treatment for all students is making a late debut at the Legislature, drawing complaints that it’s a hasty effort to make significant policy changes that affect half of the state’s $14 billion budget.

The 101-page plan will get its first public airing next week, a week after most committee hearings have wrapped up for the year.

At its core, the bill would increase the base amount of money the state provides for public K-12 schools, while eliminating a number of funding programs that benefit only school districts.

All charter schools, which are public schools, would benefit from the increase, while district-run schools would see a mix of winners and losers, according to an analysis from the Legislature’s budget office. Early estimates are 121 school districts would lose money, primarily in rural Arizona.

The plan proposes an additional $215 million for the state’s K-12 system in exchange for ending programs that benefit district schools, such as more money for experienced teachers. It also would convert Arizona’s program that rewards schools that score high on the state’s achievement tests into a permanent program that, estimates show, benefit higher-income areas at a much greater rate than school districts with higher poverty rates…

Key education lawmaker not in loop

State Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, is the author of a strike-everything amendment to Senate Bill 1269 that would create the new funding program. The bill builds on a study released last month by A for Arizona, a nonprofit that is a proponent of school choice and the growing charter-school movement.

“This isn’t suddenly brand new language,” Udall said, who is chairwoman of the House Education Committee. She has worked on the plan since October, she said, although traditional education groups such as the Arizona School Administrators and the Arizona Education Association only learned of it in mid-March.

State Sen. Paul Boyer, Udall’s counterpart at the state Senate, learned of the proposal from a reporter.

“If they were smart, they’d know that one vote makes a difference,” Boyer, R-Glendale, said of the bill’s proponents. That’s a reference to the one-vote margin Republicans hold in both the House and Senate, making every GOP vote vital. Boyer has not been shy about breaking from party ranks, a move which has killed numerous bills due to unified Democratic opposition.

Boyer said he has no idea what the bill says and cautioned against the Legislature moving too quickly. All people have to do is look at the mess lawmakers created earlier this month, he said, when they approved a bill that eliminated the election of political party precinct committee members, setting off a backlash that took a lawsuit to resolve.

Other groups, watching from the outside, said they’re alarmed at the seeming rush to make a change halfway through the legislative session.

“That’s the biggest red flag I have,” said David Lujan president and CEO of the Arizona Children’s Action Alliance. “They are trying to put forward major changes to school funding with very little input.”

An idea long discussed

Matt Simon, vice president of advocacy and government affairs for Great Leaders, Strong Schools, a school-choice organization, said components of the bill were long in the making….

“This isn’t the surprise they’re making it out to be,” Simon said of critics. Besides, it’s past time to update Arizona’s 42-year-old school finance system, which was created before charter schools existed and before Arizona became a leading school-choice state.

Besides, he said, when the “alphabets” (shorthand for groups such as the Arizona School Boards Association, the AEA and others) propose education measures, they cost millions of dollars. By tailoring school funding to the student, rather than a system, Simon said funding can even out over a five-year period as aspects of the bill are phased in…

Reach the reporter at maryjo.pitzl@arizonarepublic.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

Gay Adelmann, a tenacious champion of public schools in Kentucky, especially Jefferson County Louisville) reports here on the effort by Republicans to pass funding for charter schools.

She writes:

Hello friends,

I regret to inform you that the harmful charter school legislation that we’ve managed to stave off in Kentucky since 2017, (https://www.wdrb.com/news/education/revised-version-of-charter-schools-bill-passes-kentucky-house-and-senate/article_f77f2afe-203c-56aa-9b0a-a2ac6c66eec0.html) was rumored to be awakened from the dead on March 15, and sure enough, at 8:11 PM on March 21, we learned that the Kracken would be unleashed from a different committee than it was originally assigned to at 8 AM on March 22 – with less than 12 hours’ notice.

Charters have technically been the law of the land since the bill passed on the last day of session in 2017, but not one charter school had ever opened in Kentucky because they lacked the funding mechanism, or a way for “the money to follow the child.” All that changes if House Bill 9 passes this year, where it only needs a simple majority vote because 2022 is a budget year. It passed out of Committee with ease, with the chair herself safely voting “no” to appease her base, despite every speaker who showed up for that early morning meeting having spoken against the bill. Almost as if it was a bad movie, on Tuesday evening, HB9 passed the full House by one vote.

If those maneuvers weren’t suspect enough, there were some last-minute committee member swaps and peculiar posturing from the House Education Chair herself that raised some eyebrows and even got a mention from a couple of other Representatives. And, I mean, if you’re truly opposed to charters, as we’re supposed to assume by the House Education Committee’s chair Regina Huff’s “no” vote, why did you agree to bring it out of committee in the first place? Are you playing games with our children’s lives and educational outcomes and opportunities? Especially with bills that are proven to be harmful to the very children you pretend you are trying to help?

One of Tuesday night’s “Yes” votes on the House Floor (one could argue a “deciding vote” came from KY House Representative Jason Nemes, one of Kentucky’s most controversial House Representatives, who consistently earns the teachers’ union’s endorsement, despite consistently voting against teachers and students, and especially our students of color, EVERY SINGLE CHANCE HE GETS. Good news, there’s an amazing public school champion running against him in the November election. Her name is Kate Turner, and she can be found explaining her positions on charter schools and dozens of other issues on her TikTok channel here: (https://www.tiktok.com/@kateforkentucky).

I wrote this piece regarding these events, which was published in Forward KY. Please share.

https://forwardky.com/more-charter-bill-badness-call-now/

I also did this interview with a station out of Cincinnati/Northern KY.

Charter school funding bill clears Kentucky House, heads to Senate | WKRC (local12.com)

The bill will be heard in a specially called Senate Education Committee meeting on Monday at 3 PM and, if it passes, most likely will head to the Senate Floor when they gavel in on Tuesday at 1 PM. Calling and emailing them doesn’t work. We have to show up. We almost shut them down in 2018, but since we didn’t finish the job, we have to show up Monday and Tuesday.

Entrenched white “allied” union leaders that accused some of their own members of participating in “rogue groups” and “spreading disinformation” (https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/education/2019/03/27/jcps-unions-tell-members-ignore-misinformation-rogue-advocacy-groups/3287669002/) in years past, and even had one of their lackeys write this piece that told everyone why they should not sick out on the last day of 2019’s legislative session (“JCPS sickout: Teacher says it’s not necessary for one (courier-journal.com)and not fight for pensions and for the profession, have been relatively silent this go around. What did we expect when they’ve spent more energy fighting us than they ever did privatizers? It’s almost as if they’re working for dark money groups instead of those who pay for their representation. Since ALEC and McConnell’s dark money seems to have infiltrated every nook and cranny of Kentucky’s education advocacy and communication infrastructure, we sure could use some national attention on this travesty. Our primaries are May 17 and we have a lot of people we need to replace this November, including Rand Paul (Charles Booker for KY).

#AllEyesOnKentucky #NowAreYouStartingToGetIt? #StopChartersInKY

Thanks everyone!

#KeepGoing

Gay

www.dearjcps.com

www.saveourschoolsky.org

502-565-8397

Breonna Taylor was a JCPS Graduate. We demand justice for Breonna and ALL Black JCPS Students and Educators.

This is part 3 of the USA Today expose of the charter school grab of federal COVID funding intended to save small businesses. The series was written by investigative journalist Craig Harris. Even the lobbyist for charter schools (National Alliance for Public Charter Schools) pulled in nearly $700,000. Should the money be returned?

He writes:

  • USA TODAY found 1,139 U.S. charter schools had $1 billion in PPP loans forgiven.
  • The investigation found nearly all – 93% – lost no money during the pandemic.
  • Critics want Small Business Administration to get PPP repayments from charter schools.

The Biden administration has promised to go after those who may have abused federal financial assistance during the pandemic, and charter schools could be one of the industries under scrutiny.

The publicly funded but privately operated schools that teach a fraction of U.S. children obtained more than $1 billion in forgiven Paycheck Protection Program loans designed to help struggling small businesses during the pandemic.

A USA TODAY investigation found more than 1,100 U.S. charter schools had those loans forgiven, but 93% of them may not have needed the money because they were in states that continued to fund their operations at the same level as before the pandemic, or at even higher levels in some cases.

The loan program had enough leeway to allow small businesses, including charter schools, to qualify without showing any financial need. Federal regulations only required businesses seeking the loans to say they faced “economic uncertainty” and the money was necessary to support ongoing operations.

A congresswoman and fiscal watchdogs are calling upon the federal Small Business Administration (SBA), which administered the loan forgiveness program, to claw back some of that money.

Charter schools’ PPP loans

USA TODAY examined documents from the Internal Revenue Service, SBA, state Departments of Education and charter schools, and interviewed dozens of people, including education experts and watchdogs to find:

►The range of forgiven loans for 1,139 charter schools in 37 states was $150,746 to $9.8 million.

Some charter schools used the money to increase savings accounts or, in one case, hand millions of dollars to an investor.

A small San Diego charter chain that serves low-income children turned down a $3 million PPP loan, saying taking the money was unethical because California cut no funding to public schools.

►One California charter chain obtained $32.7 million in PPP loans by using 12 separate nonprofit companies that are linked to different schools to get the money. All of the loans were sent to the same address in Lancaster. The chain, Learn4Life, denied any wrongdoing.

KIPP, one of the largest charter chains in the country, saw its bottom line swell by $27 million in fiscal 2020. However, 14 of its affiliate organizations across the country had $28.4 million in PPP loans forgiven. KIPP said its affiliates had additional financial needs.

Craig Harris of USA Today wrote a blockbuster three-part series about the charter schools that grabbed at least $1 billion in federal funds from the COVID Payroll Protection Program, passed in 2020 to help struggling small businesses stay alive and retain their employees. Today the second part was posted. Because charter schools are “technically small businesses,” about 1,000 of them applied for the forgivable loans. None of the charter schools lost revenue or laid off employees but they asked for the money anyway. Even the charter school lobbyist—the National Alliance for Public charter Schools—asked for a $680,000 loan, which was forgiven.

Harris writes in this second part about charters that knew it was wrong to ask for PPP funding when they had no need, and others did. (I can’t find the link: if any reader can, please add.)

He starts:

‘The ethical thing to do’: Why this small San Diego charter school passed on COVID PPP loans

Albert Einstein Academies, a small San Diego charter school chain, turned down a forgivable $3 million Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Story Highlights

  • Learn4Life, a charter chain, got a combined $32.7 million in PPP loans through 12 related firms.
  • California charter schools had six of the eight largest PPP loans in the U.S. among charters.
  • In Arizona, two prominent charter chains also turned down the money, saying they didn’t meet the requirements.

SAN DIEGO – The Albert Einstein Academies, which educate 1,450 students from kindergarten through eighth grade at two inner-city campuses here, could have used a forgivable loan from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Half of the middle school students and close to one-third of the elementary kids come from low-income homes and qualify for free or reduced-price lunches at the charter schools, its superintendent said.

But while the academies were eligible for up to $3 million in forgivable loans based on revenuesthat largely came from taxes, Superintendent David Sciarretta didn’t feel right about taking the money.

He said the loan program, started by Congress in March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic, was intended to help financially struggling small businesses stay open and avoid laying off employees.

Charters are privately operated schools that are publicly funded.

We could have always used the money. But, growing up, my mom told me: ‘If there’s food on the table and there are other folks who are hungrier than you, then you need to let them eat because they have a greater need than you do.’

Sciarretta said Einstein, whose charter school campuses are minutes from downtown, didn’t suffer financially because California continued its pre-pandemic level of public school funding during the health crisis even if enrollment declined, giving some schools additional money.He said refraining from taking the loans was “the ethical thing to do.”

“We could have always used the money,” said Sciarretta, recently awarded the 2022 Hart Vision Award Winner for California Charter Leader of the Year. “But, growing up, my mom told me: ‘If there’s food on the table and there are other folks who are hungrier than you, then you need to let them eat because they have a greater need than you do.'”

Other schools took PPP loans

That wasn’t the view of at least 268 other California charter operators, who run some of the state’s largest and wealthiest publicly funded charter chains.

Those operators had at least $335 million forgiven, a USA TODAY investigation hasfound, the most of any state with charter schools. That’s about one-third of the $1 billion in loans obtained by more than 1,100 U.S. charter schools, which educate a fraction of the nation’s children and had the loans forgiven — even though most lost no money during the pandemic.

Several of those schools also employed more than 500 workers, the limit to qualify under the program, USA TODAY found.

Kathleen Hermsmeyer, superintendent of Springs Charter Schools in Temecula, said while California didn’t cut funding, it also did not increase it for charter schools like hers that specialize in at-home, remote or hybrid learning.

Those types of charter schools,which aren’t based in classrooms, experienced significant enrollment increases because of the need for distance learning during COVID,

She said her network added 1,000 students during the pandemic and needed its nearly $9.9 million loan —the largest of any charter operator in the country. The Small Business Administration, which is in charge of the PPP program that ended last May, forgave that loan on Dec. 1.

“It was exactly what PPP was designed for — to help us provide a great quality education for our children through the most difficult years ever,” Hermsmeyer said. “We kept our programs and services, and we did not cut salaries.”

The federal government promised to forgive the loans if the money was used to keep workers on the job and to pay for pandemic-related issues.

Researchers have found the SBA has forgiven most of the loans for all industries with little auditing done to see if the money was properly used. Meanwhile, up to three-fourths of the money went into the pockets of business owners, according to a recent study.

Which charter schools near you took federal PPP money?

Search USA TODAY’s database of more than 1,100 charter schools that had Paycheck Protection Program loans totalling more than $1 billion forgiven.

California, which in 1992 became the second state to allow charter schools, had more than 1,300 of the schools and seven all-charter districts at the beginning of this school year, according to the state’s department of education. That’s roughly 11.5% of the entire public school student population in California.

The state had six of the top eight forgiven loans for charter schools in America, all in excess of $5.5 million, records show.

California Congressman Judy Chu has been highly critical of the federal oversight, saying the agency and Treasury Department prioritized speed in getting money to businesses instead of scrutiny over who needed the cash.

Learn4Life gets most PPP loans

The largest block of forgiven loans, a combined $32.7 million, went to the same address in Lancaster, California, for 12 related nonprofit companiesthat are part of Learn4Life, a charter chain whose firms reported to the IRS that they employed a combined 4,567 workers during 2019.

The loans were obtained in April and May 2020, and forgiven throughout last year, federal records show.

The combined employment would be more than nine times the threshold for obtaining a PPP loan.

Learn4Life spokeswoman Ann Abajian said the organization had 1,685 employees among its companies.

She said the discrepancy occurred because the companies had previously counted seasonal and part-time employees in their staff totals and that information was disclosed to the federal government to have the loans forgiven.

Federal tax returns for the 2019-2020 fiscal year from those 12 nonprofits, which were signed by company executives, showed the higher staffing numbers.

For example, Learn4Life’s Antelope Valley Learning Academy Inc. reported employing1,302 staff, while Western Educational Corporation and Vista Real Public Charter employed 527 and 668 people, respectively.

“Each entity — as a separate charter nonprofit, with less than 500 employees and its own independent governing board — applied with accuracy and transparency, met the criteria, and was awarded the loans and later forgiven. Proper documentation with supplemental justification and backup was presented to SBA,” Abajian said.

The chain said it used the loans to purchase and distribute 20,000 laptops and 15,000 hotspots, baby supplies for hundreds of parenting students as well as an online curriculum. In addition, the organization said its technology support desk hired more staff.

Eric Cross (middle) teaches seventh-grade science at Einstein Middle School in San Diego. The school was eligible for a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, but school officials turned it down because the state of California did not cut any funding to public schools.CRAIG HARRIS

Other businesses, such as Shake Shack, also counted separate locations to qualify for a PPP loan. That publicly traded company with more than 7,000 employees and 205 restaurants in the U.S., was one of the first to get a PPP loan. However, Shake Shack returned its $10 million loan following public scrutiny.

In Arizona, prominent, successful chains Basis Charter Schools Inc. and Great Hearts Academies said they didn’t seek the loans even though their individual campuses employed fewer than 500 workers. Basis and Great Heart officials said they read the SBA rules as requiring all employees within an organization to be counted and both were too big.

Meanwhile, other California schools that had jumbo loans forgiven included Granada Hills Charter in Granada Hills ($8.5 million), Antelope Valley Learning Academy in Lancaster ($7.9 million), Summit Public Schools in Redwood City ($6.9 million), Western Educational Corporation in Lancaster ($6.2 million) and Magnolia Educational & Research Foundation in Los Angeles ($5.5 million).

Leonie Haimson, CEO of Class Size Matters (and a board member of NPE), watches the budget of the NYS public schools like a hawk. She is constantly amazed that there is no money to reduce class sizes but plenty for other things that are less essential.

She wrote this piece for the blog:

Tomorrow, Wed. March 23 will be the second meeting of the NYC school board under our new mayor, Mayor Eric Adams. Since Mayoral control was instituted in 2002, the board has been composed of a supermajority of Mayoral appointees. At that time, it was renamed the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP)by then-Mayor Bloomberg, though according to state law it is still officially called the NYC Board of Education.

Among the Panel’s duties is to approve Department of Education contracts, with many inflated and wasteful contracts rubberstamped over the last twenty years. Only once in its history has it voted down a contract: last year, when a majority of members voted in the midst of the pandemic not to approve acontract to Pearson for the test given to four-year-old students to be admitted into NYC’s controversial gifted program.

Even though the law requires monthly meetings of the PEP, the Chancellor cancelled the January meeting, and eight new members appointed by the Mayor participated at the February meeting, though their names and contact information are still not posted on the relevant PEP page . Instead, the names that arelisted still include the eight members appointed by de Blasio, who vacated their posts at the end of December. The identitiesof the new appointees can be found in the minutes of the February meeting, though no contact information or biographies.

The ninth member who was slated to be appointed by the Mayor in February was Joe Belluck, an attorney who is also the chair of the SUNY committee that authorizes charter schools. Belluck withdrew his name right before the meeting. This waspresumably due to conflict-of-interest issues, given that charterschools take away valuable public school space through co-locations approved by the Panel, and now cost the DOE budget more than $2.6 billion dollars annually. (Full disclosure: my organization, Class Size Matters, put out a press release against Belluck’s appointment the day before he withdrew.)

The new schools Chancellor David Banks, also appointed by the Mayor, has repeatedly said he wants to save money by cutting waste and the bureaucracy. At tomorrow’s meeting, among the many contracts they will be voting upon tomorrow is one for acompany called 22nd Century Technologies, at $16.5 million per year, renewable for five years at a total of $82.5 million. The contract is listed as “Recruiting and Staffing Services for Temporary Professionals.”

This company, the contract proposal says, will be paid to hire “consultants in a wide range of disciplines across DOE schools, central offices, and/or NYCDOE Borough/Citywide offices” and will be “responsible for identifying, processing upon selection, and managing the consultants it recruits and those referred by the DOE.”

The company will charge “markup fees of 17.35% and 22.50% for DOE-referred and vendor-recruited consultants, respectively.”

There is little detail about what these consultants will actually be doing, except for that they will be “used in a wide variety of areas including special education, curriculum design and development, all of which are needed to ensure the successful execution of several temporary DOE projects or needs. “

The mention of curriculum design may relate to the Mosaic curriculum, which initially being developed by “a team of administrators and teachers … during their off hours”, according to the Daily News, but whose roll-out has been delayed.

Of the $16.5 million being paid to this company, the document says nearly half will go to “supporting work that is legally mandated specialized expertise” and “supporting stimulus projects” – which I assume means federal stimulus funds, without identifying what this expertise or these projects involve. The reason for hiring consultants, the document claims, is that “because consultants are better suited to complete short-term tasks for schools and/or offices, instead of using full-time DOE employees.”

Even if the use of consultants is advisable in this case, there is no reason why the DOE should not hire consultants directly, but instead must pay another company to hire and manage them, with a markup of 22.50% and/or 17.35%, the latter if DOEofficials recruit these consultants themselves. In any case, we can expect that the mayoral appointees will rubberstamp this contract as they have in the past, with few if any questions asked, and no discussion of larger issues.

The DOE has lost millions in fraudulent contracts since Mayoral control was instituted in 2002. Just some of them are recounted in my City Council testimony from 2011. What this testimony doesn’t include is what happened four years later.

In 2015, along with then-Public Advocate Tish James and CM Danny Dromm, we blew the whistle on a proposed $1.1 billion five year contract, renewable at $2 billion, that was supposed to be awarded Custom Computer Specialists, a computer wiring company that had been involved in a kickback scheme just a few years before. The PEP approved this contract anyway, with a vote of 10-1, but as a result of the ensuing scandal, City Hall kicked it back, and the contract was rebid and awarded to several different companies at a far reduced price of $472 million, with savings to the city of between $163 million and $627 million.

Another result of the CCS scandal was that DOE promised from then on to publicly to post all prospective contract requests for authorization at least 30 days in advance, to allow for more scrutiny by Panel members as well as to allow for improved independent oversight. As Juan Gonzalez wrote about this result in the Daily News: “Tweed will even post information on all bids on its website 30 days before the scheduled vote by the panel, and has committed to do the same with other contracts.” Yet the DOE stopped doing this in April 2020 – nearly two years ago.

According to a New York state education law passed in 2005, all school board members must receive at least six hours of training in financial oversight, accountability, and fiduciary responsibilities. There is an exception in the law for NYC, but only if as the chancellor annually certifies to the commissioner in writing that the training they provide “meets or exceeds the requirements of this section.” Yet PEP members have told me privately and been quoted in the media to say that they have received only minimal training in financial oversight – and much less than the six hours that the law requires.

I recently filed a Freedom of Information request to the State Education Department for a copy of the annual certification from the NYC Chancellor, attesting that the training provided PEP members was compliant with the law, for the years 2019, 2020 and 2021. I received a response from NYSED that they had received no such certification. This is one of the reasons in my recent testimony before the State Legislature on Mayoral control, I strongly recommended that the governance law in NYC be amended to require that the City Comptroller’s office take over this important responsibility.

The DOE has gotten in trouble before when hiring companies to manage consultants – in the case of the Ross Lanham scandal, in which Custom Computer Specialists was also involved and millions were fraudulently charged to DOE for a different computer wiring scheme, as detailed in a report from the office of Special Investigator and in the indictment by then- US Attorney Preet Bharara. This scandal apart from the money stolen cost NYC more than $100 million in federal E-rate funds. This may not happen in this case. But if the Chancellor is concerned about cutting down on waste and bureaucracy, this is a strange way to go about doing it.