“IDEA is the school that never sleeps,” said IDEA co-founder Tom Torkelson. “We’re kinda like the Las Vegas of public education.”

With 61 schools across the state and an enrollment of 36,000 students, IDEA Public Schools are in high demand and will branch into Louisiana in the fall of this year.

Torkelson and IDEA President, Co-Founder and Superintendent JoAnn Gama were inducted into the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools during National Charter Schools Week. The alliance serves to recognize individuals who have left an impression in the charter school system; they are among the four individuals selected this year to join the 35 pre-existing members.

In the 2018 U.S. News and World Report for best-performing schools in the nation, six IDEA schools received a gold or silver medal ranking.

Other schools on the list from the Rio Grande Valley include The Science Academy of South Texas and South Texas High School for Health Professions.

Donna, a district in which Torkelson once instructed elementary, is the home of the first IDEA school and it served as the model of success for those that followed, according to Torkelson. Maintaining uniformity of curriculum, rules and expectations, he said, fostered the growth.

This year, IDEA awarded diplomas to its largest graduation class — 849 students who earned more than $41 million in scholarships.

“I think this is a real testament of the hard work of our students and teachers,” Torkelson said. “We invest a lot of training … coaching and development so they can really blossom and thrive.”

With the predicted continuation of growth, by 2022, IDEA will have an enrollment of 100,000 students within 10 regions of the nation.

Torkelson and Gama will be recognized along with two other honorees in June at the National Charter School Conference in Austin.