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State Rep. Canales wants state to audit IDEA’s charter schools

State Representative Terry Canales isn’t going to make any friends with the people who run IDEA Public Schools and believe in its vision, which included last winter, plans to lease a million-dollar jet for six years. That plan fell out of the sky in league with other negative publicity that started shining the spotlight on other funky stories about IDEA. For years, except for stories in The Advance, IDEA’s spending fell under the radar as it scored glowing news from not only around the RGV, and Texas, but the nation as well. For awhile, at least the last 10 years, IDEA was the poster child for large charter-school growth, eventually ranking near the top of the largest charter schools in the U.S. When it made major moves into major cities, however, like Houston and San Antonio, more news reporters started digging beneath the surface, and the way the charter was blowing through money started raising eyebrows as more public documents became available. Along the way, maybe no surprise, IDEA also proved adept at finding ways to keep private what should be public information. The public/private hybrid that are part and parcel of large charter schools makes that possible, according to the office of Texas Attorney General, who is, himself, under felony indictment for securities fraud. The governor and lieutenant governor – Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick -- are proponents of charter-school growth and/or private school vouchers, and indeed, that support has become more than a little evident over the past five years or so, as both politicians have continued to push for more charter-school funding. Then, out of the blue, starting last year, the negative news about IDEA started popping up in some major news outlets. Some of the stories being told, as laid out in at least one report, included the one in which career staffers with the U.S. Department of Education recommended that IDEA not be allowed access to grant money last year because of questionable expenditures (hundreds of thousands of dollars for the “good seats” at San Antonio Spurs games, private jets, first-class commercial plane tickets, limos, etc.). At some point, though, former IDEA CEO Tom Torkelson flew on a private jet to the east coast to meet with Ed. Sec. Betsy DeVos, a big fan of charter schools who once owned a chain, and before you could say, “no way,” not only was IDEA granted access to the grant money,

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