Colorado private charter schools get millions in federal P3 loans
DENVER – As Colorado public schools brace for years of budget cuts due to COVID-19 and declining state tax revenues, exclusive private schools and state-funded charter schools are receiving millions of dollars in federal loans, according to new data released by the government.
The Trump administration on Monday released the names of small businesses that have received federal money under the Paycheck Protection Program or P3 Funds.
P3 loans were supposed to be a lifeline for small businesses to save jobs and retain staff, but Contact7 Investigates found dozens of private and charter schools in Colorado also applied for and received these loans. Click here for a spreadsheet of all Colorado companies that have received P3 loans over $ 150,000.
“It’s the opposite of socialism. It’s corporate cronyism at this point,” said Representative Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont.
Singer said he is seriously concerned that these Colorado schools are getting federal bailouts.
“Private schools which have huge endowments and are already fiscally sound, [are] by taking advantage of taxpayers’ money, ”he said. “And so, they have to prove that they are doing something with this money – saving jobs that they couldn’t do otherwise.
In early May, President Donald Trump and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin criticized some private schools for taking P3 money and said schools should return the money if they already have large endowments, the Los Angeles Times.
Government data shows that Valor Christian Schools, a private school in Highlands Ranch, has secured a federal loan of $ 2-5 million under the P3 program. Private school tuition costs more than $ 21,000 per year, according to its website.
When asked why the school needed the money and where he went, Valor’s communications director said in an email: “We will not respond at this time.”
“If they want to be a private school, go be a private school. But don’t ask for federal help,” Singer said.
Aurora’s Regis Jesuit High School also received a $ 2-5 million federal bailout. A spokesperson said in a statement that “the school is using the funds to cover the salary costs of more than 230 people.”
Denver’s Mullen High School has received an injection of $ 1 million to $ 2 million in federal funds. The school’s website lists tuition at over $ 15,000 per year.
“The percentage of our families in need of financial assistance has increased dramatically,” said Dr. Raul Cardenas Jr., CEO and President of Mullen High School, in an emailed statement. “And federal aid ensures that we can continue to deliver on our mission.”
Singer is now asking schools to reimburse the money.
“Just because you’re allowed to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “If these schools don’t need the money, they have to return it.
Singer was even more concerned that some Colorado charter schools were cashing in the same money. These schools are funded by the state but managed by the private sector.
The CARES law passed by Congress in March provided $ 13.5 billion in funding for K-12 grants to states. Most of the money was supposed to go to school districts and charter schools based on their share of Title 1 funds, which help children from low-income families.
But some charter schools also decided to apply for loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, which was intended to help small businesses and qualifying nonprofits.
“To me that is almost like a double dip. Our charter schools have fought tooth and nail for equal funding from the state,” Singer said. “When schools at all levels are cut, we don’t put charter schools ahead of traditional Colorado public schools, and we must either take action as state lawmakers to level the rules again. game or have a tougher conversation with the federal government. “
Government data shows that STEM School Highlands Ranch received $ 1 million to $ 2 million in federal funds. Aspen View Academy in Castle Rock and SkyView Academy in Highlands Ranch received similar amounts.
STEM School said that although it receives its primary source of funding from the state of Colorado, the amount and how the money is distributed is at the discretion of the school districts.
“Due to the impacts of COVID-19, education funding will have a negative impact and we, like charter schools in the metro area and across the country, have requested the PPP loan to keep our staff at 100% employee, “a spokesperson for STEM said in a statement.
SkyView Academy chief operating officer Lori Bachtel said in a telephone conversation that the charter school has different costs than a traditional public school, and applied for the PPP loan after learning that it was eligible to do so.
Aspen View Academy director Bob Barber has noted a “significant drop in local and national income for the coming year,” and expects the challenges to continue over the next year. to come. He said the PPP money helped the school retain staff.
“This funding has enabled Aspen View Academy to continue to employ hourly workers and to provide security for those who would otherwise have been forced to take time off or suffer pay cuts,” Barber said in a report. -mail. “We are grateful that our government has provided this option to maintain continuity and stability for our teachers and staff so that they can remain focused on serving students during a very difficult time.”
Contact7 investigation team