Education

Under guidance from U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) will send $5.8 million in federal coronavirus relief to the area’s private and home schools.

Records show JCPS received $35,589,201 in federal relief for K-12 schools through the CARES Act. Guidance from DeVos says school districts have to share CARES Act funding with private schools who ask for it. The funding each school receives is based on its share of total public and private school enrollment combined and amounts to $313.47 per student.

Records obtained by WFPL News show the Louisville Archdiocese, 12 other individual private schools and three home schools requested a share of the funds from JCPS. Based on their enrollment, those non-public schools stand to receive 16.49% of JCPS’ CARES Act funding, or $5.8 million.

For some schools, the CARES funding comes in addition to millions of dollars received through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

The biggest CARES recipient was the Louisville Archdiocese, which oversees 49 Catholic schools in Jefferson County, and stands to receive $4.8 million.

The private schools don’t receive CARES funds directly. They send orders to JCPS, which administers the funds and carries out the purchasing and procurement process. According to it’s application, the Louisville Archdiocese plans to spend the funds on cleaning supplies, technology and training to support distance learning, mental health services and activities and services for low-income students and those learning English.

Christian Academy of Louisville will receive $583,367. Christian Academy spokesman Bill Jerome said much of the funding will be used to buy Chromebooks for elementary school students to support distance learning.

“Many of our students can’t afford this level of technology on their own, and this will be a hardship,” Jerome said. Tuition at Christian Academy runs between about $9,000 and $12,000. But Jerome said 38% of students receive some form of tuition assistance.

In addition to technology, Jerome said the school also plans to buy equipment for cleaning and safety, such as viral air purification equipment.

Home schools qualified for relatively small amounts: two home schools with only one student will get about $313 in federal money; another with two students will receive $626.

Here’s how much each school will receive once the Kentucky Department of Education gives the final approval:

Some Private Schools Get PPP Too

Some private schools that applied for CARES funding also received federal relief through the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). PPP loans do not have to be repaid if employers maintain their staffing levels during the pandemic.

Federal data show the Louisville Archdiocese received a loan for an amount between $350,000 and $1 million. In addition, some archdiocese schools applied for PPP loans on their own, and received anywhere from $1 million to $5 million each.

JCPS teacher and Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA) member Tyra Walker took issue with some schools’ applications for CARES funding from JCPS.

“These schools that have all this money coming in are taking away from public education,” she said, noting that many private schools are continuing to collect tuition, in addition to the CARES funding and PPP loans. “That’s just greedy,” she said.

“If you don’t need it, you shouldn’t apply for it,” she said.

JCPS is struggling to provide technology so that its 65,000 low-income students can participate in online learning next year if needed.

Several states are suing the U.S. Department of Education over DeVos’ guidance directing public school districts to share the CARES funding with private schools. Kentucky is not one of them.

Louisville Archdiocese School Superintendent Leisa Schulz said the Archdiocese’s students are entitled to federal CARES funding too.

“They’re emergency relief funds, and there’s a history in the United States, whether it be Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, the economic recession of several years ago, where there were funds allocated by the federal government to benefit those areas that were impacted,” Schulz said. “COVID-19 is a global pandemic. And I think everyone has been impacted in some way,” she said.

Schulz also said Catholic schools offer tuition assistance to some low-income students, who have additional needs during the pandemic.

Asked why the archdiocese needed PPP funds while schools continued to charge tuition, Schulz said schools took a financial hit to work with families who suddenly couldn’t afford tuition. She said she did not have information as to how much schools had been financially hit by the pandemic because those records are kept at the school level.

Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.