Gulen's American Empire

Gulen's American Empire
Gulen Empire map from Turkish Newspaper. DISCLAIMER: If you find some videos are disabled this is the work of the Gulen censorship who have filed fake copyright infringement reports to UTUBE

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gulen "inspired" Schools are a danger to America

Gulen "inspired" Truebright Science Academy charter school ordered closed by state board of appeal

The state Charter Appeal Board has upheld the decision of the School Reform Commission to close Truebright Science Academy Charter School.
School District spokesman Fernando Gallard said the decision of the seven-member board was unanimous. Tim Eller, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Education, confirmed the action.
Gallard said that Truebright has 30 days to appeal the decision to Commonwealth Court. The school will close at the end of this year, unless Truebright persuades the court to issue a stay.
"They will have to ask for a stay and be granted a stay for them to remain open," Gallard said.
Truebright, which is part of a network run by followers of Turkish imam M. Fetullah Gulen, enrolls just over 300 students in grades 7-12. It is located on Roosevelt Boulevard in Olney.
The SRC voted in October 2013 not to renew the school's charter, which was first granted in 2007 for five years. The District's charter office identified deficiencies in 2011, when it began the evaluation process, and recommended in 2012 that the charter not be renewed.
In a brief filed with the appeal board, the District argued that Truebright should close due to failure to meet academic goals, lack of a defined curriculum, failure to attract students from its catchment area, not offering world languages or Advanced Placement courses as promised, and not providing students with laptop computers as promised.
Isik Durmus, the school's dean of academics, told the Notebook last month that its academics had improved -- the school met adequate yearly progress goals in 2012 -- and that students were issued Chromebooks starting last year.
Truebright attorney Brian Leinhauser said that school officials he spoke to were "disappointed" in the decision, but that the board had not yet decided whether to appeal. He said the board will meet on Saturday.
Leinhauser said that acting Secretary of Education Carolyn Dumaresq, who sits on the appeal board, cited "academic" deficiencies in the decision, which he said was especially troubling.
"District schools in the catchment area that Truebright is in have lower SPP scores than Truebright," he said, referring to the state's School Performance Profile that rates schools.
Despite the school's uncertain future, the state Department of Education earlier this fall awarded it a three-year, $1.2 million grant for afterschool programming. The money is from the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. It was one of 23 grantees in Philadelphia.
The Gulen network has been the subject of federal investigations, and Truebright was sued by several former American employees alleging discrimination. According to opponents, much of the staff and leadership of the school are Turkish.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Gulen "Inspired" Dove Science Academy, denies association to Gulen

Fethullah Gulen is not exactly a household name in Tulsa.

But the influence of the Turkish Muslim cleric — who is living in self-imposed exile in the United States — is felt here and in cities around the world.
And his followers here fear that the arrest this week of two dozen law enforcement and media leaders who are part of the influential Gulen movement in Turkey may signal a dangerous shift of the Turkish government away from democracy and the West, and toward autocracy and Russia.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen’s followers of seeking to create a parallel power structure within the state, intent on overthrowing his government.
But Omer Akdeniz, a Broken Arrow businessman and native of Turkey, said Gulen’s followers consider him a moderate apolitical author and educator who teaches that interfaith dialogue and education are the only ways to end the cycle of violence and hatred plaguing the world.
Akdeniz is a spokesman for the Tulsa chapter of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest and also of the Raindrop Turkish House, a sister organization. Both are associated with the Gulen movement.
Akdeniz said Gulen’s informal network of followers, which some estimate at 15 million people, has created thousands of schools in Turkey and 160 other nations, including some in the United States, as well as colleges, hospitals, humanitarian organizations and media outlets. Gulen was among Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people last year. He has been called the second most powerful man in Turkey.
And Gulen followers have been active in Tulsa.
The Dialogue Institute of the Southwest has sent some 300 Oklahoma leaders and educators on two-week study trips to Turkey over the past several years and has sponsored variety of interfaith programs. The Raindrop Turkish House built a Turkish cultural center in Broken Arrow and has sponsored Turkish educational and cultural programs.
Akdeniz said two Tulsa charter public schools — Discovery School of Tulsa and Dove Science Academy — are not directly connected to the Gulen movement, but that some of their educators are Turks who are part of the local Gulen community.
Yusuf Dundar, executive director of the Tulsa chapter of the Dialogue Institute, said local Turks are concerned about the arrests this week that included the editor in chief of Zaman, a pro-Gulen newspaper with the largest circulation in the nation, key people at a major television broadcasting group and others.
“We have concerns that we are getting away from democracy and Western values,” Dundar said, speaking about the president of Turkey. “We think Erdogan is breaking ties with the West and with Europe and is strengthening ties with Russia and China. That is a very big concern for us, that he is leading our country into autocracy.”
Adkeniz said the Gulen movement is the most influential social movement in Turkey today and is the only group in Turkey with enough power to stand up to the government’s shift away from democracy.
He said the government’s arrest of key Gulen movement leaders in the media was an effort to silence its critics, who had published reports about corruption in the Erdogan government.
Erdogan has accused Gulen of ordering his followers in the media, law enforcement and the judiciary to investigate and falsely accuse some of his top governmental officials of corruption.
In a rare interview with the BBC News, Gulen denied he used his influence to initiate the corruption investigations.
Akdeniz said that when Erdogan talks to Turks and to others in the Middle East, he accuses Gulen followers of working with the United States and the Central Intelligence Agency, and when he is talking to Western audiences, he calls them dangerous Muslim extremists.
Gulen, who is 73, left Turkey for the United States in 1999 after falling out of favor with the Turkish government. He was later cleared of accusations of wrongdoing but remains in the United States, living in Pennsylvania.
The Associated Press reported that the government of Turkey now wants to extradite Gulen from the United States to Turkey.

Omer Akdeniz, left, Yusuf Dundar

Omer Akdeniz, left, Yusuf Dundar

Omer Akdeniz, (left) and Yusuf Dundar, executive director of the Tulsa chapter of the Dialogue Institute of the Southwest, talk Wednesday at the Raindrop Turkish House in Broken Arrow. Courtesy

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Mayor of Lewiston Gulen inspired school applicant should be investigated...

Published on Nov 26, 2014
LEWISTON, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Lewiston Mayor Robert Macdonald asked for the Maine Attorney General's office to take action against a group that he said lied on its application to build a public charter school in the city.

He said the group has been linked to Turkish Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who has been the inspiration behind at least 120 charter schools throughout the U.S.

The schools are known for high academic achievements, but some are also under investigation for strange financial transactions, hiring teachers from Turkey over U.S. citizens, and spending taxpayer money on moving those Turkish teachers to the U.S.

Mayor Macdonald said when the city looked further into the group's application for a public charter school, they discovered letters of recommendation written by prominent members of the community were forged. The application also left questions about finances, which was a concern when the group applied to build a charter school in Bangor just over a year ago.

Mayor Macdonald said he's tried to contact the Maine Attorney General's office several times to spark an investigation into the group, but he hasn't heard anything in return.

The AG's office said a response letter was sent to Mayor Macdonald on Frida,y but it's possible he hasn't received it yet.
The letter in part says the office is aware of the situation but will need more time to review the information before determining whether a formal investigation should be launched.

Last of Gulen "inspired" Fulton Science Academies closed in Georgia, no more Gulen schools in Georgia

Fulton County school board members have denied renewal of charters for a high school and elementary school in the district, citing weaknesses with governance and problematic finances. In a unanimous vote at a board meeting Thursday night, members decided to cut ties with charter schools Fulton Science Academy High and Fulton Sunshine Academy elementary by the end of this school year — leaving the future of 800 students who attend the schools in question. Fulton school district staff cited poor governance that has “resulted in the default on a $19 million bond, a self-perpetuating board membership structure that has been dominated by individuals who did not represent the community,” and a “general lack of transparency,” according to a released statement from the school system. Representatives of the charter schools have fought against the criticism in an attempt to keep the schools operating. In a statement to parents this week, high school board chairwoman Maria Beug-Deeb, who has two children at the school, said they “have been responsive and transparent communicating with Fulton County” about how the schools operate. “We have overhauled our board and adopted new bylaws that go into effect in 2015,” she stated. “The county has expressed concern about our school’s board. In response to their concerns, the FSA High School board members have all agreed to resign their posts if this removes the impediment to receiving our renewed charter.” Fulton school superintendent Robert Avossa has directed district staff to “investigate a path forward” for students. The schools are expected to remain open until the end of the school year. “After years of opportunities to improve, it has become clear that the governance boards of these schools are either unable or unwilling to be sufficiently transparent in their governance practices to justify their continued funding by taxpayers,” Avossa said in a statement. The board’s action Thursday follows the State Charter Schools Commission of Georgia’s decision in August to deny authorization of both schools’ continued operation. The commission’s vote to deny the charter petitions was based on recommendations from the commission staff, which said the elementary school administration and governing board “failed to adequately address how the school would operate” and the high school’s governing board had “consistent problems” in its oversight of school administration. In 2012, Fulton revoked the charter of a related middle school and tried to revoke the high school’s charter but was overruled last year by the state board of education. Fulton shut down the middle school after an audit raised questions about finances and management. The district criticized the school’s board for borrowing nearly $19 million for construction without knowing whether the charter would be extended. The bonds, issued by the Alpharetta Development Authority, subsequently went into default. School officials have challenged the accuracy of many of the audit’s findings. The middle school closed in July 2012 and reopened as the Fulton Science Academy Private School, serving students as young as pre-kindergarten. One of the problems Fulton had cited when it tried to revoke the high school’s charter was low enrollment. Fulton also alleged the public school required seniors to pay for online courses needed for graduation, but the school has denied that. The school, which auditors found had some connections to supporters of Fethullah Gulen, a prominent Turkish imam, had been unable reach the enrollment goal of 350 promised in its charter application nearly a decade ago, Fulton officials said at the time. School officials have denied a relationship with Gulen. Nationally, some charter schools with ties to the Gulen education movement have faced criticism for contracts with businesses and groups tied to the movement and money spent to bring in teachers and other workers from Turkey. The Fulton high school has 280 students, including 125 ninth-graders, and the elementary school 564, according to a spokesman for both schools.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Charter Schools operated by the Gulen Movement are part of a larger business structure (Non Turks no need to apply)

Over the summer, FBI agents stormed nineteen charter schools as part of an ongoing investigation into Concept Charter Schools. They raided the buildings seeking information about companies the prominent Midwestern charter operator had contracted with under the federal E-Rate program.
The federal investigation points to possible corruption at the Gulen charter network, with which Concept is affiliated and which takes its name from the Turkish cleric Fetullah Gulen. And a Jacobin investigation found that malfeasance in the Gulen network, the second largest in the country, is more widespread than previously thought. Federal contracting documents suggest that the conflict-of-interest transactions occurring at Concept are a routine practice at other Gulen-affiliated charter school operators.
The Jacobin probe into Gulen-affiliated operators in Texas, Arizona, Utah, Nevada, and California found that roughly $4 million in E-Rate contract disbursements and $1.7 million in Department of Education Race to the Top grantee awards were given to what appear to be “related parties.” Awarding contracts to firms headed by related parties would seem to violate the FCC’s requirement that the school’s bidding process be “competitive” as well as “open and fair.”
Unlike most charter schools networks, the Gulen charter network has received significant scrutiny in the US press, primarily because of the international profile of its Islamic cleric leader and xenophobic fears of “education jihad.” Such coverage distracts from what appears to be systemic corruption at the public’s expense, a predictable consequence of the US charter school model. This has nothing to do with Fetullah Gulen’s religious teaching and everything to do with the private management of public education dollars.
Like most big-time charter operators, the Gulen charter network has developed a growth model more reminiscent of a Fortune 500 company than a public school district. As the sociologist Joshua David Hendrick told Jacobin, the Gulen charter school movement links “private Turkish capital with a shared sub-economy that builds upon an initial educational venture and then expands from there.”
Armed with startup capital from Turkish foundations, the charter school network has quickly grown to over 130 schools in twenty-five states while employing the same business strategy: invest in lawmakers to win charter school contracts, import Gulen adherents to staff schools on H-1B teaching visas, and award school contracts to education resource firms led by former employees.
The cycle can then repeat itself as enriched former school employees donate to the plethora of Turkish foundations, securing political influence for individual charter school operators.

A Suspect Bidding Process 

Records indicate that Gulen charter schools nationwide may be regularly violating federal competitive-bidding laws by disbursing contracts and grants to firms owned by other Gulen schools or former Gulen school employees.
In August, the Chicago Sun Times reported that in Chicago alone Concept management may have engaged in nearly a million dollars worth of related-party transactions with E-rate contractor Core Group, Inc. An analysis of Core Group’s E-Rate program disbursement shows their only successful bids have come from Concept charter schools across the Midwest and that these fifty-eight bids amount to over $3.2 million.
More obviously suspect are the contracting deals sometimes crafted between Gulen chains. Apex Educational Services, for example, presents itself as a stand-alone education technology firm, but a 2013 IRS file from a Chandler, Arizona, branch of the Gulen-affiliated Sonoran Science Academy chain lists Apex Educational Services, Inc. as one of its properties.
Hence it is no surprise that nearly all of Apex’s forty-eight E-Rate bids have gone to Gulen-affiliated chains across California, Nevada, and Utah, and all four of Apex’s successful bids have come from Magnolia Science Academies, one of the country’s largest Gulen charter chains. To date, Apex has earned about $114,000 from Magnolia’s E-Rate disbursement.
Ties between other Gulen-affiliated chains and their E-Rate providers may also violate the FCC’s competitive-bidding requirements.
There appears to be an intimate relationship, for example, between Harmony Public Schools, a Gulen-affiliated Texas charter chain, and the telecommunications firm Brighten Technologies, which from 2010 to 2014 earned roughly $670,000 off of twenty-three Harmony’s E-Rate contracts. Set up and staffed by former Harmony computer-science teachers, Brighten Technologies exists almost exclusively for Harmony contracts (94 percent of Brighten Technologies’ E-Rate applications have been for Harmony Public Schools).
In an email to Jacobin, Harmony denied these practices constitute a conflict of interest, claiming that their contracting approach to federal grants is “fair and open.” Nonetheless, despite being unaware of their close relationship, the Universal Service Administrative Company – the independent agency responsible for reviewing E-Rate applications – has rejected thirteen of Harmony’s applications to contract with Brighten Technologies for failing to prove it had a competitive-bidding process.
Regarding their contracting with Brighten Technologies, Harmony officials wrote, “A range of factors, including price, product availability, and demonstrated ability to deliver are evaluated in selecting vendors, and all the criteria for ‘best value’ have to be met, not just low price.”
Such a response is telling; rather than simply explaining why no conflict of interest exists with Brighten, Harmony officials stressed twice to Jacobin that “low price” is not their only contracting criterion, a line they used to justify what appeared to be overly generous contracts to Turkish-owned construction firms three years ago.
Additionally, federal data does not support Harmony’s claim that Brighten Technologies offered any “better value” in lieu of its overcharging. In fact, most of Brighten’s applications were rejected for failing to provide basic planning standards. To date, only twenty-six of Brighten’s ninety-eight applications have been accepted. Had Brighten been competent enough to meet USAC’s basic requirements when applying for Harmony contracts, it could have netted well over $5 million from past applications alone.
But Harmony’s apparent competitive-bidding violations go beyond the E-Rate program. In February 2014, Harmony’s school newspaper announced that the Cosmos Foundation had secured a $29.8 million Race to the Top grant from the Department of Education to purchase Google Chromebooks for over 16,000 students.
Brighten Technologies received a roughly $905,000 Department of Education Race to the Top grant, secured for them by Harmony Public Schools — another potential federal violation of Race to the Top grant rules, which stipulate that recipients must foster “full and open competition” when contracting for goods and services.
Further analysis of the same Race to the Top grant shows that Harmony also awarded $805,000 in contracts to the Gulen-affiliated Texas Gulf Foundation for various consulting and instructional services. But as the New York Times reported in 2011, the foundation, like Brighten Technologies, was started by former Harmony employees and used to have its offices on a Harmony campus.
Harmony officials denied that this contract award violated competitive-bidding guidelines; Brighten Technologies has not returned Jacobin requests for comment.

Building Influence, Building Schools

Gulen-affiliated chains have grown most rapidly in the Midwest, Texas, Arizona, and California, where, as in Chicago, stories abound of Gulen-affiliated charter officials appealing to state authorities to override the contracting decisions of local school districts.
In Illinois and Texas, Gulen-linked Turkish cultural foundations have invited lawmakers on numerous trips to Turkey, and consistently fund the campaigns of those in a position to expand their fast-growing network. When the Chicago Public Schools declined Concept’s offer to build two more schools, for example, Concept appealed to the Illinois State Charter School Commission, an agency formed by Illinois Democratic Chairman Michael Madigan, among others. The commission overturned the school board’s decision and approved Concept’s expansion.
Madigan had taken four trips to Turkey that were hosted by the Niagara Foundation, whose honorary president is none other than Fetullah Gulen. From 2010-2012, the Niagara foundation paid for at least thirty-two sojourns for Illinois lawmakers.
In New Orleans, two members of the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education traveled to Turkey at the invitation of the Gulen-affiliated Pelican Foundation. The trips prompted local rumors of a quid pro quo when one of these members was the sole dissenting vote against revoking Pelican’s right to operate Abramson Science and Technology Charter School, despite shocking stories of alleged mishandling of sexual-abuse cases.
Similarly, the Houston-based Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, which a Stratfor email leaked by Wikileaks described as “definitely a nonprofit related to the larger Fethullah Gulen movement,” has been called into question for its lavish trips for Texas lawmakers. Prominent members of the nonprofit have close ties to Harmony Public Schools, Texas’ largest charter chain, and its 2012 IRS 990 form alone lists nearly $1.9 million in travel expenses.
The founder of Harmony Public Schools, Yetkin Yildirim, is also the Austin branch representative of the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians, a position from which he regularly lobbies local politicians.
And their influence may extend beyond their regional bases. On February 9, 2010, Kemal Oksuz, the president of the Turquoise Council, and Yildirim, the founder of Harmony Public Schools, both attended a White House “Briefing for Turkish American Leaders.” In a statement to Jacobin, Harmony Public Schools claimed to have no affiliation with the Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians and denied any connection to the Gulen movement, despite several investigative reports that have linked the two.
Additionally, Buzzfeed reported this summer on the tens of thousands of dollars that Gulen adherents were pouring into Texas races, particularly to that of US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee. School officials denied these donations were part of a centrally coordinated influence-building effort. Nonetheless, in July, Harmony CFO Erdal Caglar admitted that Jackson Lee was helping the chain expand to a location in DC.

Education or Immigration?

Despite the financial success of many Gulen schools, several sites have driven themselves to bankruptcy, spending enormous amounts of public funding on immigration fees for fellow Gulenists. As the Atlantic recently reported, Utah’s Beehive Academy, a Gulen school, spent “about 50 cents to pay the immigration costs of foreign teachers for every dollar that it spent on textbooks.” This eventually caused the school to be temporarily shuttered.
In California, Magnolia Science Academies, a Gulen-affiliated chain, recently made headlines for allegedly misusing $3 million in public funds to cover the immigration costs of six non-employees. The Los Angeles Unified School District ordered the closure of two Magnolia schools, citing financial mismanagement, but a July court order reversed the decision.
For Gulen, it goes beyond financial impropriety. Gulen chains appear to use H-1B slots for teaching positions to facilitate immigration and further business expansion, rather than to improve teaching quality. According to Canadian consular officials, teachers being brought from Turkey to teach in Gulen schools on H-1B visas are often not credentialed. “While the H1B petitions were for teaching positions at charter schools in the United States,” wrote one Canadian official, “most applicants had no prior teaching experience and the schools were listed as related to Fethullah Gulen.”
Records indicate that from 2001-2010, Cosmos Foundation, the charter operator of Texas’ Harmony Public Schools, filed 1,157 H-1B visa applications and brought in 731 employees — higher than all other providers of secondary education combined.
In a statement to Jacobin, Harmony officials explained “the national shortage of math and science teachers” had pushed them to hire a “small percentage of international teachers” whose qualifications were “based primarily on academic professional credentials.”
The story of Brighten Technologies, the telecommunications provider closely linked to Harmony, illustrates how Gulen schools use H-1B visas not only to guarantee American residency to fellow Gulen adherents, but also to create in-house companies to profit off of federal and state grants.
Take Joseph Duzgun, the founder of Brighten Technologies, who came to the states sometime around 2002. According to his Linkedin page, Duzgun studied mathematics at Ondokuz Mayis University in Samsun, Turkey, though his profile does not include any information regarding teacher training.
Nevertheless, Duzgun served a short teaching stint at Harmony Schools from as early as 2004 to at least 2006. Two years later, he started Brighten Technology Solutions (later called Brighten Technologies), which has benefitted from numerous publicly financed contracts from his former employer, Harmony Public Schools.
Likewise, Turkish immigrant Gökhan Sancar was a computer teacher and technology instructor at Harmony Science Academy Lubbock from 2008-2009 and at the Harmony School of Ingenuity from 2009-2010. He joined Brighten Technology Solutions in 2010. He currently lists his position as Brighten’s VP of Sales. Neither Duzgun nor Sancar responded to Jacobin requests for comment.
Brighten Technologies exemplifies the Gulenist corporate expansion strategy. School officials bring over fellow Gulenists on H-1B teaching visas, keep them in Harmony schools for a few years, then organize them to found companies — which are guaranteed a profit from providing services to Gulen schools, often at inflated costs.

A Charter to Steal

Harmony’s E-Rate and Race to the Top programs federal grants have netted Brighten Technologies over $1.57 million in dubiously legal related-party transactions. Such transactions appear to violate many federal grant application rules, and also occur at the state level, where such nepotistic practices are often even more difficult to regulate.
In Texas, where Harmony has quickly grown to become the largest charter school chain, nine regulators oversee the operations of 671 charter school campuses — a number that hasn’t changed since 2011, according to Texas Education Agency spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson. This regulatory force is so inadequate that in 2011, even Greg Richmond, president of the National Association of Charter School Authorizers, admitted, “They don’t have the capacity at the state level to do the job.”
From 2009-2011, Harmony awarded thirty-five contracts worth a total of $82 million to Turkish construction firms with close links to school officials. Despite offering substantially lower bids for the same jobs, competitor firms were shocked to find out they’d lost.
Investigation into Harmony Public Schools’ contracting practices from 2009-2013 indicates that tens of millions in public dollars have continued to flow to closely associated Turkish firms. Since 2009, TDM Construction has brought home over $45 million, Solidarity Construction over $45 million, and Atlas Construction over $3 million, totaling well over $95 million from Harmony contracts alone.
To finance their massive construction projects, Harmony Public Schools has also issued hundreds of millions in bonds, which will rely heavily on public financing to pay off. A 2012 New York Times report, for example, found that Harmony has been granted $200 million in bonds since 2007, making it Texas’ largest charter school bond issuer by far. Last July, the city of Houston alone issued Harmony a $101,555,000 bond to build two more schools, renovate four existing ones, and refinance some of Harmony’s existing debt.
Harmony’s plan to finance their overall debts is projected to cost nearly half a billion dollars over the course of twenty-nine years, a plan which could come back to haunt taxpayers, given that in the last five years the Texas Education Agency has shut down eleven Harmony schools. And unfortunately for the people of Texas, the state’s permanent school fund will guarantee the principal and interest of these bonds, thus exposing Texas higher education funding to considerable risk.
While these sweetheart deals, guaranteed windfalls, and potential financial collapses are troubling, they are endemic to the charter school movement nationwide. The widespread corruption at Gulen charter schools is not due to the religion of Gulen charter school executives, but rather because doling out millions in public funding to private education operators with little to no oversight protects and encourages such fraudulent practices.
Indeed, despite the FBI raids this summer, Chicago’s Board of Education authorized Concept to expand to two more sites just one month later.
The move came as a shock to many Chicagoans, still recovering from the Chicago Board of Education’s historic move to shut down fifty schools last year, mostly in working-class black and Latino neighborhoods. As Chicago NBC reporter Mark Anderson lamented, “a federal raid on a company doesn’t seem to mean much anymore, especially if that firm is a politically connected charter school operator ready to take millions in taxpayer dollars to stay in business.”
The contracting practices of Gulen-affiliated charter schools appear to be not just nepotistic, but illegal. Such corruption, however, must not be ascribed to the ideologies of the Gulen movement, but rather to the structure of the charter school sector, which it has successfully gamed.
In addition, the Gulen expansion strategy should be viewed not as an outlier within the charter school movement, but as its most successful example. Gulen foundations invest in politicians to win charter contracts, and use the resulting public funding to import Gulen adherents on H-1B teaching visas. Though these employees do not necessarily have teaching credentials, they are often qualified to form education resource firms, which consistently earn generous contracts from Gulen schools across the country. The cycle then expands as employees of these firms give back to the very foundations that initiated the process.
It’s a process that enriches private actors and hurts students. But as long as US lawmakers push for private control over public education, the corruption and public plunder that Gulen schools exemplify will only continue.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Gulen Charter Schools and the h1-b Visa teachers, are they who they say they are?

Just one of the many examples of name changes.

Engin Karatas  became Engin or Edwin Blackstone

Umit Yapanel = Matt Yapanel


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Concept Schools dba Horizon Charter Schools is guilty of stealing American Jobs h1-b Visa FRAUD


Cincinnati Inquirer reporter James Pilcher’s recent investigative story highlights the state of Concept Schools, and in particular, their uncanny ability to recruit and hire more H1-B visa teachers than any other educational company in the United States.  According to Pilcher, over the past 8 years, Concept Schools has brought in 474 “highly qualified” Turkish born teachers to teach American kids core subjects like math, science, “computer,” and of course – Turkish --  despite the fact that there are over “40,000” qualified and certified American teachers ready and willing to fill those jobs. Similarly, the majority of high level administrative positions at Concept Schools are held by Turkish males.

How exactly are these crooks allowed to continue on with this ruse? They continue to exploit American educators -- importing lesser qualified and skilled Turkish “educators,” to teach our children – while using our tax dollars? So while the American teachers are standing in the unemployment line, the Turks continue to ravage our tax coffers – laughing all the way to the Gulen bank of America.

Concept School President, Salim Ucan states that he “feels more comfortable,” hiring his fellow Turks. That’s great – but since the educational system in Turkey rates as one of the lowest in the world, how about keeping his "comfortable" Turkish “teachers” in Turkey instead of shipping them over here to teach American students. And by the way, isn't that comment by Ucan a direct affirmation of Concept's discriminatory practices?

In keeping with his ongoing credo -- Ucan also pronounces that all of the allegations are nothing more than fictional complaints by "former disgruntled employees." Disgruntled -- guess so --  as any employee would be if their employer was extorting 40% of their salary...

And this is not an issue exclusive to Concept Schools. Gulen’s network of schools spans 27 states and has 140 United States’ tax payer funded schools. According to Pilcher’s report, the US government has issued work visas to 2300 Turks in the years 2012-13.


Below is Pilcher’s story:

Horizon Science Academy in Bond Hill has the usual classrooms, books and lessons to teach kids seeking an alternative to regular public and private schools.

The charter school also employs seven foreign teachers, mostly from Turkey, brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for jobs it says Ohio teachers are unqualified to fill.

Concept Schools, founded by followers of a Turkish Islamic cleric secluded in the Poconos, already is under federal and state scrutiny for possible irregularities in teacher licensing, testing and technology contracts.

An Enquirer investigation has found that Chicago-based Concept Schools, which runs Horizon and 17 other charter schools in Ohio, annually imports dozens of foreign teachers in numbers that far surpass any other school system in the state.

At least 474 foreign teachers, again mostly from Turkey, have arrived at Concept's Ohio schools between 2005 and 2013. The schools are collecting about $45 million in state funds annually to educate 6,600 children in kindergarten through high school.

Critics say H-1B visas were designed to help companies temporarily employ highly skilled foreign workers in biotechnology, chemistry, engineering and other specialized fields – not K-12 teachers.
The Ohio Department of Education is weighing complaints from former Concept staffers that unlicensed, foreign teachers were used.

Ohio teachers, meanwhile, say plenty of qualified teachers are available for jobs being filled by the foreigners, especially since about 40,000 are still without teaching jobs because of the recession.
Concept officials defend the practice. They say it's the only way to find qualified math and science instructors, adding that the international teachers add to the cultural experience of students.

"These teachers are hired legally and are here legally," company vice president Salim Ucan said. "It's not like we're sneaking them across the borders. These are highly qualified people who have gone through the legal process to come here and make a difference in the lives of kids."

Academically, Concept students perform no better or worse than children at the nearly 300 other charter schools in Ohio.

Ten of the Ohio Concept schools – more than half – received Ds on the state's most recent performance index, a measure of how many students passed key achievement tests.
Horizon Science Academy was one of the schools getting a D.

Other districts use H-1B visas, but not so many as Concept
H-1B visas have been around for nearly 50 years, created as part of a major immigration overhaul in 1965.
Essentially, they're work permits allowing foreigners to live in the U.S. for three years so long as they're employed by companies in positions pre-approved by the U.S. Labor Department, State Department and Immigration and Customs Service.

Contrary to popular belief, most employers don't have to prove that there is a shortage of qualified U.S. workers to apply for an H-1B visa.Each visa can be extended three years for a total of six. After that, a worker must obtain permanent residency status through a green card application, gain U.S. citizenship or return home.

The U.S. issues about 85,000 H-1B visas per year. Nearly 2,300 were issued for Turkish immigrants in 2012-13, an Enquirer analysis of U.S. State Department data shows.

In Ohio, at least 80 other public districts or private schools used H-1B visas between 2005 and 2013, including Cincinnati Public Schools and systems in Columbus, Akron and Cleveland. Those districts each use about one or two immigrant teachers a year, primarily to teach language skills. CPS hired one teacher using an H-1B visa in 2007.
Concept, on the other hand, this year employs 69 teachers on H-1B visas in Ohio – about 12 percent of its teaching staff. Almost all came from Turkey, and the few who didn't originated from surrounding countries.

"Concept may or may not be bending any rules, but the rules were written poorly in the first place," said Ron Hira, an immigration policy critic and professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. He shared with The Enquirer federal H-1B data he obtained from the Immigration Department through an open records request.

"It seems clear from the data that these schools are favoring H-1B workers from a single source country, Turkey," Hira said. "American workers, as well as foreign workers from other countries, did not have a legitimate shot at getting these jobs."

Concept's Ucan acknowledged that Concept targets Turkish workers, but only because "we're from Turkey, and that is where we have comfort."

"The founders of this organization are Turkish and are established Turkish-Americans," said Ucan, who said he originally came to the U.S. on an H-1B visa and is now nearly finished applying for U.S. citizenship.
"Because of that relationship, it is much easier to recruit from Turkey. It would be much more difficult to go to China or other countries because we do not have the relationships here."

The use of H-1B visas for teachers has proven problematic elsewhere.
A criminal investigation is underway in several suburban Dallas school districts for immigration abuses involving H-1B teachers.

Maryland's Prince George's County banned the practice after its school system was fined $1.7 million and ordered by the Labor Department in 2011 to repay $4.2 million in back wages improperly withheld from H-1B teachers.
"Not every employer or the program itself is problematic, but there have definitely been abuses," said Denise Gilman, co-director of the Immigration Clinic and law professor at the University of Texas.

Many students have trouble in conventional schools.Cincinnati's Horizon Science Academy sits in a converted small college building near a major industrial center in Bond Hill. The school is clearly sectioned off to separate upper and lower grades, older and younger students. About 88 percent of this year's 448 students students are black, and 5 percent are Hispanic.

More than 91 percent qualify for free or reduced lunch, so the school provides free breakfast and lunch to all students.
Like all charter schools, Horizon is run by a private company using state funds diverted from the local public school system. Many charter students have trouble learning in conventional public or private schools. Others seek an alternative to public schools, which may have their own performance or discipline issues.

Some parents at Horizon say they sought out the school for its emphasis on math, science and technology.
The school opened as an elementary school for the 2004-05 academic year, just four years after the Ohio General Assembly approved the use of charter schools. It soon expanded to include a middle school and then a high school.
The school interior appears bright and clean. A well-equipped computer lab features several desktop PCs, 30 laptops and 30 iPads. Separate art classes are decorated with the kids' latest work, with well-supplied baskets surrounding the rooms.Almost all the classrooms are equipped with electronic smartboards, a touchscreen version of a chalkboard.

Administrators and parents say strict discipline is enforced – highlighted when a line of kindergartners and first-graders held their fingers over their mouths in the "shhh" pose all the way back to the classroom after a visit to the restroom. On a separate visit a day later, police forcibly removed one student while another parent came by to pick up another troublesome child.

Coy Johnson of Bond Hill said the school sent his 5-year-old grandson home after a fight in class, a disciplinary action he supported. "And when you have small classes like they do here, it makes everyone feel involved," Johnson said.
School officials say Horizon's low test scores reflect the "transient nature" of the student population.
"We don't turn any kids away, even the ones that aren't really wanted elsewhere," said Michael Bidwell, the school's instructional coordinator. "Some of these kids have been at multiple schools, sometimes within the same school year. But we're not going to give up on you."

Difficult students can prove a challenge to incoming Turkish immigrants such as Yasin Kusan. The first-year high school math teacher is originally from western Turkey, but moved to the U.S. this summer from a different teaching gig in Papua, New Guinea, with his wife and 9-month-old baby.

"The type of students are tough in terms of discipline," Kusan, 30, said through a moderate accent. "I didn't know what to expect. I was disappointed by the economic level of the students, but I am trying my best not to let it hinder me ... especially considering the life standards of where I came from."

Like most of the Concept immigrant teachers, Kusan and fellow Turkish colleague Bilal Urkmez are younger and male. Most of the Turkish teachers are assigned to high schools or technology classes; Americans primarily staff the elementary grades, Ucan said. Both men paid their own travel expenses to the U.S., while Concept paid the nearly $1,000 in fees for the visas.

"It has always been my dream to teach," said Urkmez, 29, who is in his second year as a high school math teacher at Horizon Cincinnati. "My models were my teacher and my father, who was also a teacher." Questions over licensing, reassigning H-1B immigrants.

The glowing reports are not universal.

In May and June, the FBI raided 19 Concept charter schools, offices and other businesses in at least four states, including the Cincinnati Horizon and three other schools in Ohio. The raids came as part of a multistate investigation into possible financial fraud involving a federal Internet technology-funding program.

Ohio education officials, meanwhile, are weighing whether to launch a full-scale investigation into whether Concept Schools is using unlicensed foreign teachers. At a state hearing in Columbus in July, several former Concept teachers complained that some Turkish teachers were working without the required licenses.

"We're concerned about any situation where a teacher has not received the proper licensing. That is not appropriate," Education Department spokesman John Charlton said. "But it is incumbent on the school ... to give a quality education. And if we find anything improper or have questions, we will put pressure on the appropriate organization."
One former Concept teacher and a former administrator from a separate Concept school previously have said publicly that unlicensed teachers were common at their schools.

Mustafa Emanet said he was hired in 2006 as an IT administrator at Concept's Horizon Academy in Cleveland but soon was transferred to teach, without a license, at another Cleveland Concept school (Horizon-Denison). That's a potential violation of not only state education standards, but also of U.S. immigration policy. H-1B workers are normally assigned to one location, and cannot be moved or transferred without prior federal approval.

"It was pretty awful. I couldn't even understand when the kids wanted a Kleenex or tell them to stop chewing gum," Emanet said in an interview with The Enquirer, referring to the language barrier. He taught computer science to middle-schoolers before leaving Concept in 2009. "There was a big gap there. But it wasn't like I could leave."

Amy Britton-Laidman told a similar tale from a different perspective. A Cleveland native, she was hired as a secretary at Noble Academy in Cleveland in 2006, and she quickly became the school's enrollment coordinator as well. Britton-Laidman told The Enquirer that several teachers from Turkey entered the classroom barely able to speak English, and she was told not to ask questions about it.

Later in 2011, she said she ran across an email that discussed bringing in someone to replace her, and two months later she was fired. "I still maintain that someone's friend needed a job, so it became my job on the line," Britton-Laidman said. Ucan denied those claims, saying they were made by "disgruntled former employees."

Reclusive cleric inspires school company's founders
Concept Schools was founded by followers of a controversial religious and social movement led by Turkish cleric Fethuallah Gulen, currently secluded in the U.S. Through his sermons on the Internet, Gulen preaches that the way to true enlightenment and the betterment of society is through education for all, although the movement has drawn criticism for its secrecy and lack of financial transparency worldwide.

Hundreds of private schools affiliated with Gulen have been opened in countries including Russia, China and Indonesia, according to an expert in the movement.

The concept of charter schools also provided a unique opportunity in this country.
"Here, you can do it (create schools) through charter schools and use public money and thereby reduce the amount of capital you need," said Joshua Hendricks, a sociology professor at Loyola University and author of the book "Gulen: The Ambiguous Politics of Market Islam In Turkey and the World."
"Now you are dealing with 27 different states with 27 different levels of oversight," Hendricks said.

Several Concept Schools administrators and officials acknowledge a personal affinity to Gulen's teachings, but they say that it does not influence any business dealings or the schools themselves.
Concept vice president Salim Ucan also denies any direct financial ties between Concept and Gulen.
"We are a nonprofit organization running public schools," Ucan said. "Yes, one of the teachings of Gulen is to spread education throughout the world. And that inspired me and others to be teachers. What can be wrong with that?
"But we never let it enter the curriculum or influence what we are teaching."

One former teacher at a Cleveland Concept school, however, has said he was forced to pay tributes under the table to the movement and was even required to visit Gulen at his residence in the Poconos in northeast Pennsylvania. Mustafa Emanet told The Enquirer of being required to pay back some of his salary in cash to school administrators during his stay between 2006-09.

Emanet was hired on an H-1B visa as an IT network administrator. But after he arrived, he said he was presented with a "secret" contract that required a tribute to the Gulen movement.

He said his initial H-1B visa called for him to be paid about $44,000 annually. When he arrived, he was told he would be making less than $30,000 a year.

Later as his pay rose, he said he was required to give up to 40 percent of his salary back to school administrators in cash as a "himmet," or a tribute to Gulen and the overall movement. "It got to the point where I was paying $900 to $1,000 a month," said Emanet, who eventually got his green card and is now a software developer in the Cleveland area.

Ucan dismissed Emanet's claims as being from a "former disgruntled employee" and says there is no such pressure or secret contracts or tributes at any of the company's schools.

Two local Turkish teachers interviewed by The Enquirer said they have felt no such pressure and have made no such required payments. Yasin Kusan, who immigrated to the U.S. in July, said he donates voluntarily to the local Turkish cultural center when he can. Second-year high school math teacher Bilal Urkmez said he sends any extra money home to his family in Turkey.

Hendricks, who spent five years studying Gulen organizations in Turkey and in the U.S., said, "It is understood that once you are gainfully employed, you give back ... and everyone gives according to their means.
"Those inside have an expression that 'the movement reemerges from itself.' So you see the money funneled into startup capital for Turkish businesses, as well as for cultural organizations and such. There is definitely a wealth redistribution within that community."

Another immigration expert said federal authorities may have started asking questions after "60 Minutes," the New York Times and other national media outlets did stories on the movement and its possible ties to Turkish-run charter school operations.

Texas-based Harmony Schools, the largest charter school management company in the U.S., also was created by Turkish immigrants and has been linked to Gulen.

More about Concept Schools

Charter schools are run by private organizations and funded with public money as an alternative to traditional public schools. Chicago-based Concept Schools is one of the most established charter companies in Ohio, having been created by Turkish expatriates in 1999 in Cleveland as Ohio moved to allow the creation of charter schools.
Concept has become the fastest-growing charter school operator in Ohio – growing to 18 schools from only two a decade ago. In the 2012-13 school year, Concept schools enrolled 6,329 Ohio students in kindergarten through high school, drawing about $45 million in state funding a year. Overall, it operates 31 schools in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri.

Concept also is Ohio's second-largest charter school operator, trailing only Akron-based White Hat Management. White Hat operates 29 schools in Ohio with an enrollment of 6,660 in the 2012-13 school year. That company received $53.2 million in public funding that year.

Unlike Concept, White Hat does not use H-1B visas to fill teaching positions, White Hat chief executive Thomas Barrett said. "Still, we respect the fact that each management organization or independent school has its own philosophies and practices with respect to hiring. That's consistent with the fundamental concept of charter school autonomy," Barrett wrote in an email to The Enquirer.

Ohio is among 27 states nationally that have some version of a charter school program. Kentucky is not one of them.