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Permian Basin Leaders Pledge $55M To Support Charter School Project

By Mitch Borden

Permian Basin leaders this week announced $55 million dollars in private funding they intend to use toward education. The group of foundations, businesses and individuals are throwing that money behind an effort to bring charter schools to Midland and Odessa. 

The multi-million funding will boost IDEA Public Schools, which announced earlier this year that they plan to bring 14 charter schools to the Permian Basin by 2024.

Individuals, energy companies and other philanthropic organizations all contributed toward the donation.

“If you don’t have things like education or healthcare or water nobody is going to come to your community and we need people here to develop these assets that we are so richly blessed with,” said Grant Billingsley, executive director for the Scharbauer Foundation -- one of the group's pledging millions of dollars in support.

Billingsley says taking steps to improve services like education in the Permian Basin is vital — especially as the West Texas oil boom continues. His group's $21 million donation is reportedly the largest ever made to IDEA.

Other foundations contributing to the charter school project include Abell-Hanger Foundation, which donated $5.5 million, and The Henry Foundation, which dolled out $2 million.

Billingsley believes IDEA coming to the region will help stir competition among traditional public schools and improve the quality of education across the board. 

IDEA Public Schools is planning to open its first campus next year in collaboration with Midland Independent School District's Travis Elementary.

Mitch Borden is Permian Basin Reporter & Producer at Marfa Public Radio.