At least $ 19 million in federal loans to 41 charter schools in North Carolina

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RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) – More than 40 charter schools in North Carolina have received a total of at least $ 19 million in federal loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.

CBS 17 News published the names of each of the 201 charter schools listed on the state Department of Education website through a database of the 16,324 employers that the US Small Business Association said received loans of at least $ 150,000 in early July.

Of the 41 schools appearing in the dataset, three were listed as receiving loans ranging from $ 2 million to $ 5 million. Four others received loans between $ 1 million and $ 2 million, including two in our area – Central Park School for Children in Durham and Henderson Collegiate.

The Paycheck Protection Program provides low-interest loans to employers with no more than 500 workers to cover payroll and expenses, and it becomes a subsidy if the loans are used to keep those employees in business. same rate of pay.

CBS 17 News found that 19 charter schools received loans between $ 350,000 and $ 1 million, and another 15 were listed with loans between $ 150,000 and $ 350,000.

Since these loan amounts were provided as ranges and not as specific dollar figures, the $ 19 million represents the lower limit of the total amount received by charter schools in the state – while the upper limit could reach $ 47.25 million.

Critics say charter schools could be “double-deducted” because some also received a portion of the more than $ 400 million in federal funds given to the state through the Aid, Relief Act. and economic security against coronaviruses.

Public charter schools are funded primarily by state and local governments. Because some are run by small nonprofit businesses, these were eligible for PPP loans. Traditional public schools were not eligible for these loans.

“Public money always supports charter schools, and there’s no need for P3 funding, which was meant to really help struggling small businesses,” said Natalie Beyer, a member of the Durham school board who sits also on the board of directors of First NC Public Schools, a non-profit group that advocates for public education.

Beyer says the boards of these charter schools should meet and vote to return the money to the federal government.

But Rhonda Dillingham, the executive director of North Carolina Association for Public Charter Schools, called the loans a “real lifeline” and “a real savior” because of the different funding structures of chartered and traditional schools.

She said the public charter schools “get about 70 cents on the dollar compared to our district counterparts” and that the per student funding goes to the students. The remaining 30 percent, she said, usually comes from fundraising.

“It was virtually impossible for these schools to lead the fundraising they had done in the past,” Dillingham said. “This is why the PPP was so important.

Mary Ann Wolf, director of the Public School Forum of North Carolina, said her group refused to take a stand on PPP loans.

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