Many Bay Area private schools received more COVID-19 relief per student compared to public schools, data shows

"It just shows there's still a lot more work to do...inequities still exist."
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- According to an ABC7 I-Team analysis of state and federal records, many private schools in the Bay Area received more per student compared to public schools since the pandemic began.

Our team analyzed data provided from the California Department of Education to track the amount of state and federal COVID-19 relief money going to public schools. For private schools, we calculated the amount of funding received through the Paycheck Protection Program.

ABC7's analysis found out of the private schools in San Mateo County that received funding through the Paycheck Protection Program, the average student received the equivalent of about $2,523 more per student. That's more than three times what the average public school student received.

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"That's not fair," said 10-year-old Aiden Nagales, who goes to Monte Verde Elementary School in South San Francisco. His school district still participates in distance learning. "I have ADHD... it's really hard to focus. Nothing replaces going to actual school."

Down the street, private catholic school St. Veronica's has been open since October 5. In order to afford tuition, the Nagales' wouldn't be able to pay their mortgage, which rules out that option.

"We're getting by, but it's tough for everybody," said parents Mark Nagales and Amy Lam.


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Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at Stanford's Graduate School of Education, said "Private schools have lots of different funding sources... they have the ability to apply for loans, endowments, emergency funds, private donors, and many of them had good resources to begin with. Fewer students and more space."

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One example of that is the Bentley School in Oakland.

The highly-respected private school doesn't disclose its endowment size, but according to its website tuition for kindergarten through grade 8 is anywhere from $32,000 to $35,000. For grades 9 through 12, tuition climbs to more than $46,000. The school also received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program for close to $3 million. That averages out to $4,347 per student and is three times more than the amount of COVID-19 relief going to the average public school student in Alameda county at $1,332.

ABC7 reached out to the Bentley School multiple times for comment, but have yet to hear back.

"It just shows there's still a lot more work to do," said Nagales. "Inequities still exist."

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St. Ignatius, a private Catholic college preparatory school in San Francisco, received close to $5 million in PPP funding. That averages out to each student receiving the equivalent of $3,160. The average public school student in San Francisco received close to half that, around $1,734.

"There probably is a real use for the PPP for payroll for these private schools," Pope said. "The difference is the resources that were already in place, the size of the students, the fact that they aren't unionized."

St. Ignatius College Prep told ABC7 that the Board of Trustees, which governs the school, unanimously agreed to apply for the loan in May 2020 and has every intention of paying it back. The loan allowed the school to keep people on payroll including faculty, kitchen, and building and grounds staff. The school also added the loan helped continue scholarship programs, financial aid, and help bring back students to campus by November 9.

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In a statement the school wrote: "As a school, we must responsibly plan our financial needs in advance each year to prepare to meet the educational and facility needs of our deserving students. In 2020 the pandemic put added pressure on our resources that required us, as stewards, to seek support, for which we were grateful."

While private schools like Bentley and St. Ignatius College Prep are back in the classroom, the Oakland and San Francisco Unified School Districts are still debating. As of early March, 88 percent of public school districts in the Bay Area are still taking part in distance learning for the majority of grades.

A key resource to getting students back in school is routine testing, which not all public schools can afford. Menlo School, a private college preparatory school in Atherton, purchased a year-long membership to One Medical for all 1,000 students, staff, and their families to make weekly testing and vaccinations more accessible.

The school confirmed to ABC7 that reserve funds were used to cover the cost. In a statement, the school wrote: "Menlo School did not apply for PPP funding as we did not feel that was what the government program intended."

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"There are some issues with equity... who can afford to go to a private school?" Pope said.

The Nagales don't have that option. Mark and Amy wish they could tell their 10-year-old son: "Ok, Aiden. It's time to go back to school and not be so worried about it."

But, the worries won't go away, especially as the waitlist for their 4-year-old to get into pre-kindergarten has jumped from four to five years in San Mateo County.

"As a parent, I'm worried she'll fall behind," said Nagales.


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