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Congressman claims IDEA Charter used political help to land $$$ grant

Just a couple of weeks after it was announced that the co-founder of IDEA Public Schools, Tom Torkelson, was leaving IDEA, a U.S. Democrat congressman from Wisconsin, Mark Pocan, sent a letter to the U.S. Education Department, posing questions about a multi-million-dollar federal grant that had recently been awarded to IDEA. According to the congressman, at least three employees at the Department of Education had told him in confidence, and had evidence to prove it, that professional staff inside the department had discarded IDEA’s application for the grant because it was now deemed “high risk” because of the way it had previously spent federal funds (Source: Washington Post). Yet, according to the congressman, IDEA got the grant anyway, thanks to political appointees deep inside the Department of Education. Thanks to those political connections, said Pocan, IDEA’s application was not only placed back in the bidding for the multi-million-dollar grant, but in the end, IDEA walked away with most of the money. As a result of the three whistleblowers’ complaints, U.S. Representative Mark Pocan wanted the federal department to hand over the details and records tied to the $72-million grant. In his letter, Pocan didn’t name the whistleblowers or the names of the alleged political “fixers” at the Education Department, which is currently directed by pro-Charter School guru and billionaire Betsy DeVos (her husband is the multi-billionaire heir to the Amway fortune). Before Trump named her Education secretary, DeVos was known for her support of charter schools, school choice, and voucher programs in her native state of Michigan. A controversial figure in the field of education, it took the vote of VP Mike Pence to break the U.S. Senate’s 50-50 tie vote to get her confirmed to Donald Trump’s cabinet, a first in U.S. history for cabinet appointees. Although Pocan’s letter doesn’t name the political appointee(s) at the Department of Education who allegedly helped IDEA land the $72-million grant, it’s clear that Torkelson and DeVos are on friendly terms. As part of a story published this March by the Texas Monitor, records showed that IDEA’s Tom Torkelson had traveled on a chartered jet to Tampa last November to visit DeVos to discuss “education philanthropy.” According to those same records, Torkelson was the sole passenger on the private jet that could hold nine people and cruise at approximately 400 knots. That Texas Monitor story written by seasoned journalist Steve Miller and published March 9, 2020 also bore ...

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