"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, March 14, 2024

No Excuses for IDEA Charter Schools Theft of Public Funds?

Based on the No Excuses KIPP Model for chain gang schooling of brown and black children, IDEA Public [sic] Schools was founded in 2000 by two former Teach for America recruits, Tom Torkelson and JoAnn Gama.  The new corporate charter chain saw explosive growth, becoming the largest charter chain in Texas, with 36 schools and 19,000 students by 2015. By the end of 2024, IDEA plans to have 143 schools and 80,000 students in Texas, Louisiana, Florida and Ohio.

Early in 2019 the U. S. Department of Education handed IDEA Charter Schools, Inc. a five-year grant for $116 million, ostensibly to open new charter schools. 

By December of the same year, IDEA's corporate board under the direction of IDEA's CEO, Tom Torkelson, had voted unanimously to lease an eight-passenger private jet for $15 million to, well, jet around. When the story came to light, thanks to the Houston Chronicle, the plan was canceled. 

Ah, well, that didn't stop the high rollers at IDEA from spending $400,000 a year for sky boxes to watch the San Antonio Spurs or for other luxuries that were brought to light by a forensic review in 2021.

Co-founder TomTorkelson took his money ($900,000 in severance) and ran in 2020, followed a year later by the firing of the other co-founder, JoAnn Gama, and a number of other corporate welfare queens and kings.  

Even so, the corruption persisted.  Which led to further investigation by the Texas Education Agency (TEA).  That investigation wrapped up in late January, and the San Antonio Report reported on March 6 that TEA has appointed two conservators to oversee operations.  No indictments, no slaps on the wrist, no criminal referrals.  

As a condition, I suppose, of no one at IDEA getting an orange jumpsuit, IDEA has agreed to pay back $28.7 million in federal funds. Why, you ask. No explanation by TEA, which remains a cheerleader for IDEA, so much so that IDEA, specializing as it does in cultural sterilization of brown and black children, has announced a building boom moving forward.

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