Ciresi calls for investigation into PA charter schools receiving PPP payments

HARRISBURG, July 16 – State Rep. Joe Ciresi, D-Montgomery, is calling for an investigation into Pennsylvania charter schools receiving payments under the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program.

Ciresi penned a letter this week to Auditor General Eugene DePasquale asking his office to investigate the charter schools that received loans and to ensure that public funds are being spent properly, including both federal funding through the PPP, as well as state and local funding provided to charter schools by school districts. The Paycheck Protection Program offered loans designed to incentivize small businesses to keep their employees on their payroll.

“Pennsylvania taxpayers deserve to know that their tax dollars are spent responsibly and that the funding of a government program is used for its intended purpose,” Ciresi wrote in the letter. “It is therefore important to determine how charter schools were able to justify and obtain these forgivable loans, and whether taxpayer funds from all sources are being used for their legally intended purposes by recipient charter schools and management organizations.”

Ciresi learned through a July 7 article from the Philadelphia Inquirer that over 20 Philadelphia-area charter schools and charter management organizations received at least $30 million in low-interest loans through the PPP, he said.

From first-hand experience as a school board member, Ciresi said he knows school districts are required by law to continue making payments to charter schools even during crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, and that charter school applicants would have to certify to the SBA that the funding they received would be “necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant.”

“Our school districts make sacrifices – sometimes involving raising taxes, making budget cuts, or even laying off staff themselves – to make sure charter school funding continues uninterrupted and untouched,” Ciresi wrote to DePasquale, “making it a mystery how additional public funds intended for small businesses would be in any way appropriate or necessary to support charter school operations.”

The full text of Ciresi’s letter can be found through this link.

For more information, contact Ciresi’s office at 484-200-8265.

Rep. Ciresi talks with civics class students at Perkiomen Valley High School before the COVID-19 pandemic.