Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Harmony Science Academy Gulen School to be INVESTIGATED-Who's Sorry Now
By Mike Ward | Tuesday, June 28, 2011, 06:57 PM
Amid concerns over curriculum and construction financing of publicly funded charter schools, the House General Investigating Committee will look into the state’s growing network of the privately run public schools, officials confirmed this evening.
Earlier this afternoon, legislative leaders said those concerns had played a role in an initial defeat of Senate Bill 1, a key budget-balancing bill, over provisions that provided state guarantees for charter school bonds among others.
When the House on a second vote approved SB 1, there was brief mention by state Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, that the House panel would look into the operations of Harmony Schools, one of the largest charter school operators.
Its connections with a Turkish group and its use of teachers from Turkey were among the issues raised in a recent New York Times story about Harmony Schools, an article that piqued lawmakers’ interest, as well.
House General Investigating Committee Chairman Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, said his committee has started a preliminary look-see into Harmony “and all the other charter school operators in the state.
“It’s nothing criminal. We just want to see whether they are spending our (state) money wisely,” he said. “There have been some concerns about (Harmony) building schools without competitive bidding, and about other issues, but we are going to looking at every one of the charters.”
He said the inquiry remained in the preliminary stages.
“There are a lot of people, including some members of the House, who have children in (Harmony Schools) and are very satisfied with them,” Hopson said.
House Education Committee Chairman Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, said from what he knows, many charter schools including the Harmony Schools are successful. “There are a lot of people who think highly of them,” he said.
Earlier today, representatives from the Eagle Forum, a conservative group, were lobbying Capitol offices over their concerns about Harmony Schools, among other issues, several lawmakers said.
Before the second House vote on SB 1, several lawmakers said during floor debate that the concerns raised by the Eagle Forum had figured in the initial ‘no’ vote, but it was not clear just which concerns were involved.
Representatives from the Eagle Forum and Harmony Schools could not immediately be reached for comment.