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IDEA Charter Schools and the Spurs Spends $400k on game tickets Family connection with school uniforms

Last December, The Advance published a story about IDEA Public Schools’ decision to cancel its plans to lease a corporate jet for eight years valued at $16 million (life of the contract). Apparently, a state teachers union was questioning the high-flying contract and so was The Houston Chronicle. There have been other examples of the charter school’s apparent propensity for “living large.” In September of 2018, The Advance News Journal published a story about IDEA’s central office administrators getting paid an average salary of $200,249 vs. the state average of $102,300. For that story, IDEA’s CEO Tom Torkelson declined comment. That same story also revealed that IDEA’s top administrators often chose to fly first-class aboard airliners as opposed to buying seats in the more cramped coach section. Transparency has long been an issue with IDEA Public Schools. When The Advance News Journal submitted a public information request in 2017 seeking information about its creation of two new LLCs, for example, it declined to provide the information and instead asked for an opinion from the Texas AG (attorney general). The AG ruled in favor of The Advance, after which IDEA filed a lawsuit in a Travis County District Court, trying to keep the information out of public view. The court ultimately ruled by way of summary judgment a year later (2018) in favor of IDEA. Recently, Sept. 5, 2019, 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, which centered around IDEA’s aircraft seating – first class. While trying to dig further into that story, The Texas Monitor submitted a public information request to IDEA asking it to provide a video of the finance-committee meeting during which the charter operator allegedly discussed leasing a private jet, but that request was declined. IDEA also failed to post the agenda for the meeting on its own website. Last week (Jan. 30, 2020), The Houston Chronicle reported that IDEA CEO Tom Torkelson has announced that IDEA will end “hard-todefend” spending practices, which includes buying tickets and a luxury box at San Antonio’s AT&T Center, which amounted to spending approximately $400,000 over the past approximately 12 months for tickets to the San Antonio Spurs games (Go, Spurs). Private donations paid for the ...

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