Brentwood School in LA returns federal aid after Trump, Mnuchin criticism

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LOS ANGELES — Brentwood School, the elite K-12 institution in West Los Angeles, has returned the federal coronavirus aid money it recently received after President Donald Trump and others leveled criticism at private schools that had taken the funding.

The school said Monday that it had returned an undisclosed amount of funds “so they can be distributed to others who are in greater need of the assistance.”

The move comes four days after the Los Angeles Times reported the school had gotten the loan through the Paycheck Protection Program — a disclosure that was quickly followed by criticism from the president. The loans, backed by the Small Business Administration, are designed to help pay for workers’ salaries and are forgivable if certain parameters are met.

“The president has made clear that he does not believe private schools with significant endowments should be receiving (Paycheck Protection Program) money and those that have should consider returning it,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said Friday.

Brentwood had an endowment of $17.4 million as of 2017, according to IRS data.

Trump’s comments followed earlier statements Friday by Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, who said in a tweet that such private schools “should return the loans.”

At least two of Mnuchin’s children are students at Brentwood, and one of Trump’s children also goes to a tony private school that got federal aid.

Barron Trump attends St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, Md., which said in a statement Friday it would keep the PPP money it received.

Brentwood, a K-12 facility with more than 1,100 students on two campuses, said in its Monday statement that it had applied for the PPP funding April 3, but reevaluated that decision after the dynamics of the program changed.

On April 26, after an initial round of the $660 billion PPP was quickly exhausted, the Small Business Administration issued revised guidelines for the program that make clear that big, public companies with other financing options shouldn’t seek the money. It also cautioned entities receiving the loans that they might be asked to certify the funding was required for continued operation.

“Throughout the last week, we carefully considered the added clarifications as well as the growing understanding that, unfortunately, not all who qualify will receive PPP funds,” the school said.

Brentwood told the Times last week — after the SBA’s revised guidance had been issued — that its PPP loan would help it navigate a future that could include “a potential decline in enrollment and charitable giving, accompanied by increased demand for financial assistance and other escalating expenses.”

At least a handful of Brentwood’s alumni took to social media to voice their displeasure with the school’s initial decision to accept the aid. One of those former Brentwood students was actor Patrick Schwarzenegger, the son of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver.

Patrick Schwarzenegger said in a tweet Sunday that the Brentwood loan “pisses me off so much,” adding that PPP funding is “meant for small businesses to keep their employees at work” and “not private schools with millions of dollars in their account.”

Allocations of PPP funding, which is a component of the CARES Act, have come under intense scrutiny, with several other high-profile businesses and organizations, including Shake Shack Inc., saying they would give back their loan after facing public pressure. Mnuchin has threatened to hold participating companies criminally liable if they do not meet criteria for the program.

Founded in 1972, Brentwood boasts a board of trustees that includes actress Calista Flockhart and investor Lance Milken, son of billionaire Michael Milken, the former junk bond king. The school said in its statement that the board voted unanimously “to decline the loan.”

Tuition at Brentwood ranges from $37,500 a year for kindergarten through fifth-grade students to $44,000 for sixth- through 12th grade students.

Several other private schools in the L.A. area — including Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, Marlborough School in Hancock Park and Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences in Santa Monica — opted to not apply for PPP loans.


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