Denver charter schools received $16 million in federal coronavirus aid

Denver charter schools received a total of $16 million in federal coronavirus relief funds meant to help keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic, according to a memo prepared by Denver Public Schools staff at the request of a school board member.

Charter school critics nationally have balked at charters receiving federal Paycheck Protection Program funding, which is not available to traditional public schools.

But Denver charter leaders have committed to reckoning with any inequity created by the funding — a move the memo identifies as unique to Denver. Leaders said that could mean charters taking less than their share of other federal coronavirus relief funds earmarked for Denver schools, leaving more money for district-run schools.

All Denver schools — charter and district-run alike — are facing shrinking budgets next school year. Colorado schools get a large portion of their funding from the state, and lawmakers cut next year’s education budget after COVID caused state tax revenue to plummet.

Denver charter leaders say the federal paycheck protection funding helped soften the fiscal blow. Many Denver charters serve high numbers of students from low-income families and other groups whom the district has prioritized reaching during the pandemic.

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