PHOENIX — A Valley charter school district is declining to provide an on-the-record interview about why district leaders applied for and received between $350,000 to $1 million of Paycheck Protection Program funds.
Charter One is a private company that operates as the school district for American Leadership Academy charter schools in the East Valley.
Companies that applied for PPP funds were expected to be able to show financial hardship caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charter schools did not lose any state funding because of the pandemic, though some school operators have cited hardships such as canceled fundraisers.
Charter schools all received a minimum of $50,000 as part of the CARES Act.
This comes as 12 News investigates companies that took cash from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
Charter One Chief Financial Officer Robert Plowman told 12 News off-camera the company lost expected revenue from an agreement it has with ALA schools based on standardized testing scores.
The COVID-19 pandemic caused standardized testing to be canceled in the spring and therefore Charter One lost that revenue, Plowman said.
Plowman and Charter One Chief Executive Officer Glenn Way declined repeated requests for interviews to discuss in detail how much the Charter One lost in revenue and why it was justified taking PPP funds.
“I think they’re hesitant to talk to reporters like yourself because you are catching them with their hands in the cookie jar,” said Kyle Herrig of the nonprofit Accountable.US, which tracks PPP money.
“They got free money from the government that was designed to go to the corner store, was designed to go to the dry cleaner down the street.”
According to public records, about 20% of charter school companies in Arizona took a minimum of $150,000 of PPP funds.
Charter One is one of two companies in Arizona that functions as a charter school district that also took PPP funds.
A spokesperson for Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said she is concerned about ineligible businesses receiving loans.
“Our office is looking into the question of funding for charter schools,” said Sinema spokesperson Hannah Hurley.