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Owning a charter chain is very lucrative, especially when it is one of Betsy DeVos’s favorites. Just this year, she gave the Texas-based IDEA chain $116 million from the federal Charter Schools Program to expand in Texas and Louisiana.*
Feeling flush, the IDEA board of directors approved a plan to lease a private jet and pilot at a cost of $160,000 a month for eight years, nearly $2 million a year, for a total of $15.3 million.
The pushback from Texas AFT, the attention from Texas newspapers, and the heavy ridicule on Twitter led to a quick reversal of the decision. IDEA’s well-compensates executives will have to fly commercial, to their great disappointment!
The Houston Chronicle reported:
Texas’ largest charter school network abruptly grounded its plan to spend millions of dollars leasing and operating a private jet Monday, hours after the Houston Chronicle and a state teachers union raised questions about the arrangement.
IDEA Public Schools officials reversed course Monday evening, saying the organization will not sign an eight-year lease on an eight-passenger aircraft, an agreement unanimously approved earlier this month by the charter’s governing board. District leaders said they planned to use the jet to fuel the organization’s rapid expansion across the southern United States, with private donors footing a bill expected to approach $15 million over the life of the lease.
Tom Torkelson, CEO of IDEA, called the lease plan “a prudent decision,” although it does prove that IDEA is a private chain, not an operator of public schools. Have you ever heard of a public school or even a state superintendent with a private jet?
Life is unfair! If your corporation is taking in millions, why shouldn’t its top brass have a private jet? You know, like other private corporations?
*The federal CSP was launched by President Clinton in 1994 to grow start-ups but it has morphed into a slush fund for corporate charter chains, which DeVos uses as her personal slush fund. This is the program where nearly 40% of the schools funded either never open or close soon after opening.