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First-class plane tickets IDEA Public Schools staff knows how to travel in style

Three weeks ago, The Advance reported that RGV-based IDEA Public Schools’ central office administrators have an average salary of $200,249 vs. the state average of $102,300. Now, it’s also safe to say that they often travel in style, booking first-class airline tickets (Source: The Texas Monitor). How does IDEA justify the expense? Don’t know. No one at IDEA seems willing to discuss it, despite taxpayer funding north of $400 million per year. The Advance has tried to reach IDEA CEO Tom Torkelson for comment, but to no avail. Recently, Sept. 5, The Texas Monitor published a story about IDEA – “Charter schools fly below the radar on spending and transparency rules.” According to that story, written by seasoned journalist Steve Miller, IDEA officials declined an interview request and did not respond to emailed questions before the story was published. The Texas Monitor (texasmonitor.org) is an independent, non-profit, digital-journalism outlet reporting on public integrity (and transparency) in state and local governments, according to its website profile. Miller has previously worked at the Dallas Morning News, the Washington Times, the Texas Watchdog and has published pieces in Miami New Times, People Magazine, and High Times. IDEA Transparency? In the case of IDEA, the question of transparency is a question mark. In early 2017, The Advance News Journal sent IDEA Public Schools a public information request asking for any and all documents related to the formation of IDEA Public Schools USA LLC and IPS Enterprises LLC. IDEA balked and sent a request to the Texas AG, asking that it be allowed to keep said request from prying eyes. The AG ruled in the favor of this newspaper (the documents requested are indeed a matter of public record, it said). Still, IDEA dug in its heels and filed a lawsuit against the Texas AG, its lawyers claiming the AG was wrong; it didn’t have to disclose squat about the LLCs to The Advance News Journal. Last August (2018), a Travis County District Court (the 126th ) ruled in IDEA’s favor as part of a motion for summary judgment. According to the court, certain non-charter activities conducted by IDEA are not subject to public disclosure. During a business meeting last week (Sept. 6) in San Antonio, IDEA passed a resolution converting IPS Enterprises LLC from a nonprofit LLC to a Texas nonprofit corporation. Why? Don’t know. On the business agenda this line item also appeared: “Aircraft Use and Charter Policy.” The Friendly Skies According to The Sept. 5,

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