IDEA Public Schools in Weslaco, Texas, has announced commitments totaling at least $45 million to open new charter schools in Midland and Odessa.
The commitments from local companies, foundations, and individuals include $21 million from the Scharbauer Foundation, $5.5 million from the Abell-Hanger Foundation, $2 million from the Henry Foundation, and, most recently, $16.5 million from the Permian Strategic Partnership, a coalition of energy companies. In addition, local businessman Collin Sewell is leading an effort to raise up to $10 million from individuals and organizations in Odessa. The funds raised will support the opening of fourteen schools at seven sites by the 2024-25 school year, with the first school scheduled to open in 2020.
"Even though we receive public funds from the state, we're funded a little bit differently than traditional ISDs, and we don't have access to the kind of facilities funding that they do," IDEA Public Schools executive director Bethany Solis told the the Odessa American. "We don't raise local bonds or property taxes. We don't have access to that. By our fifth year of operation, we are self-sustaining, meaning the revenue we get from the state covers all of our expenses. But to get to that point, we need some start-up money and that's where the philanthropy comes in."
"The impact that this can have on these two communities and the children and families...can't be overstated," said Scharbauer Foundation executive director Grant Billingsley. "
"In the tradition of our founders, George and Gladys Abell, whose first grants were given to advance the acquisition of knowledge, the Abell-Hanger Foundation Trustees are proud to support IDEA Permian Basin," said Abell-Hanger Foundation executive director Mark Palmer in a statement. "The transformative work that IDEA has driven in the Rio Grande Valley and in San Antonio is changing the trajectory of young lives and creating opportunity where little existed before."
"Improving public education is vital to the success of our communities and is a top priority for PSP and our member companies," said Permian Strategic Partnership chair Don Evans. "With the broad community support for IDEA and the fact that bringing high-performing charter schools into a district is proven to have a positive effect on all district schools, we are delighted to financially support IDEA's expansion into the Permian Basin."