Sunday, January 29, 2023

Dozens of expensive private schools received millions in U.S. pandemic loans

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At least six dozen expensive private schools, including one where former President Barack Obama’s children studied, got between $42 million and $104.25 million in loans under a U.S. program meant to help small businesses weather the coronavirus crisis.

Among the schools, the biggest beneficiaries included the storied Washington-based Sidwell Friends School and the progressive Saint Ann’s School in Brooklyn, New York, with both receiving between $5 million and $10 million in forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program.

Other recipients include the Miami Country Day School, which received up to $5 million, and the Aspen Country Day School, which received $650,000. Their tuition is in the $30,000-$37,000 range.

More than two dozen Waldorf schools across the country, best known for their no-media policies that keep students away from screens and social media, also took in millions of dollars.

Carolyn Hines, director of communications at the Aspen Country Day School, said the school would use its funds to keep its 63 staff on payroll during a time when fundraising is challenged.

The other schools did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The government said its pandemic relief program for small businesses saved some 51.1 million jobs, with $521.4 billion in taxpayer cash infusing a wide array of America’s small businesses.

But the presence of private schools among the beneficiaries underscores how several well-heeled institutions got support along with millions of workaday small businesses.

At Saint Ann’s, tuition exceeds $50,000 a year and the competition among the wealthy to gain acceptance for their children is intense. Students do not get grades, but the school has one of the highest admission rates to Harvard University in the country.

Sidwell Friends, which costs about $41,000 a year, has a history of educating the children of presidents, including Obama’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, and former President Bill Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea.

Former Vice President Al Gore’s son and presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s grandchildren also attended the school.

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