Valerie Strauss writes here about the abject apology by Tom Torkelsen of the IDEA corporate charter chain for his company’s lavish spending.

The head of a Texas-based charter school chain publicly apologized for “really dumb and unhelpful” plans that included leasing a private jet for millions of dollars and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on San Antonio Spurs tickets.

It’s not the first time he has acknowledged errors in the chain’s operations.

Tom Torkelson, chief executive of IDEA Public Schools, issued a letter (see in full below) to the IDEA community saying he has sometimes “pushed us to a place that’s hard to defend” in his effort to be “entrepreneurial and different from traditional education systems.”

“I’m sorry I put IDEA and our friends in that position,” he said.

Charter schools are publicly funded but privately operated. Supporters say they offer valuable alternatives to families that do not like their neighborhood schools. Critics say they drain resources from traditional public school districts that educate the vast majority of students and that they are part of a movement to privatize public education.

IDEA was started in Texas by two alumni from Teach for America and has nearly 100 campuses in that state and Louisiana serving nearly 53,000 students. According to its audit for 2018 and 2019, IDEA has more than $1.13 billion in assets. It has received more than $200 million from the federal Charter Schools Program over the past decade and has plans to expand rapidly in the next few years.

The chain markets itself as having a 100 percent college acceptance rate. It doesn’t mention that acceptance to a four-year college is a requirement for graduation, which would presumably be a disincentive to enroll for students who do not want to attend college.

Torkelson recently backed off a plan to lease a private jet for $2 million a year — for six years — after the Houston Chronicle and a state teachers union raised questions about it. Torkelson had said the lease would allow IDEA executives to fly to states where the network is expanding.

After Torkelsen’s apology, IDEA bought an ad during the SuperBowl, which cost millions. Big spenders gotta spend bigly!

This past year, Betsy DeVos gave IDEA over $100 million from the federal Charter Schools Program (aka, her private slush fund).

How does a chain of schools amass over $1 billion in assets?

If anyone can answer that question, please post it here as a comment.