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IDEA Charter's assets exceed $1 billion

As a follow-up to last week’s front-page story about IDEA Public Schools’ story published in the Houston Chronicle Jan. 30, which pointed out that the huge charter school operator had spent approximately $400,000 over the past 12 months on tickets to San Antonio Spurs games, bought first-class plane tickets for its top administrators, and was planning to lease a private jet for six years before the negative news was made public, and a state teachers union objected. The Washington Post published its own story about IDEA the same week (Jan. 27). In the Chronicle story, IDEA’s CEO Tom Torkelson publicly apologized for the negative publicity he had caused the huge charter-chain he had helped co-create approximately 20 years ago. The Washington Post (WaPo) published a story Jan. 27, in which it included IDEA in its Top 5 list of charter school scandals for 2019. Call it a bad week for IDEA, which, by the way, hasn’t responded to the last several requests for comment from this newspaper. In the Washington Post story titled, “The 5 most serious charter school scandals in 2019 – and why they matter,” IDEA’s audit is included, which reveals some interesting items. For example, IDEA bought some property from one of its board members for approximately $1.7 million, while another board member served as the paid legal counsel in that land purchase. Perhaps even more interesting, according to the 2019 IDEA audit and the WaPo story, an un-named “related (IDEA) party” earned a 3 percent commission on IDEA real estate purchases totaling approximately $3.5 million dollars; and on top of that, vendors affiliated with IDEA employees engaged in business transactions in excess of $600,000. Even though its audit shows assets in excess of $1 billion, both state and federal agencies continue to throw money at IDEA, according to The Washington Post (WaPo) story. For example, in 2018, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, awarded IDEA Public Schools a grant worth approximately $117 million of taxpayer dollars, which is considered the largest federal grant ever awarded for charter school expansion. Over the years, DeVos has been a big proponent of school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools, much to the disdain of teachers unions who question why charter schools like IDEA can hire teachers who are not certified by the state. Today, IDEA is considered to be the fastest-growing school district in the U.S. It includes 79 schools, approximately 45,000 students, has a budget of ...

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