The Journal Gazette
Friday, February 21, 2020 12:30 pm

Holdman donates tainted money from defunct virtual school

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – A Wells County state senator said Friday he will donate tainted money from a virtual school and related entities.

Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, is sending $3,000 to Family Centered Services – a nonprofit that provides family support programming in Adams, Huntington and Wells counties.

He said his district includes 12 school districts so he chose the group instead as a way to help youth in the community.

Holdman’s move follows suit with other Republicans, including Gov. Eric Holcomb, House Speaker Brian Bosma, Senate President Pro Tem Rodric Bray and the majority campaign committees.

The Indiana Democratic Party brought to light more than $100,000 received by current or former legislators from companies and individuals tied to the virtual charter school scandal. The vast majority went to Republicans.

Indiana Virtual School and its sister academy have been under a cloud since a Chalkbeat investigation in 2017 uncovered inflated enrollments and money being sent to a bevy of outside vendors related to the founder.

A State Board of Accounts review released last week found the schools wrongly received $68.7 million in state payments by improperly claiming about 14,000 students as enrolled between 2011 and 2019, even though they had no online course activity. In addition, the schools inappropriately paid almost $86 million to companies linked to the schools' founder or his associates.

One person who is still thinking about possibly donating money he received is House Democrat Leader Rep. Phil GiaQuinta, D-Fort Wayne.

He said Thursday he would consider it, noting he got $300 a few years ago. He differentiated himself from Republicans returning the money because he didn’t vote in support of virtual charter schools.

"So obviously I haven’t been a friend of the virtual schools," GiaQuinta said. "I think we’re going to probably discuss that. That’s something I know that just came up."

Holdman is also under pressure to reveal how much money he made from a contract with Indiana Virtual School from 2011 to 2019. He provided consulting services to the now-maligned school but didn’t publicly disclose his contractual relationship.

The Journal Gazette continues to try to find the contract and its pay but the school is now defunct.

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