Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gulen Schools in Texas

The New York Times has an extended investigative piece on Gulen schools operating in my home state of Texas. The schools, known as "Harmony Schools," are owned by the Cosmos Foundation, which the paper reports was founded by a group of Turkish businessmen and professors. The piece centers on the ways the school uses public monies. The Cosmos Foundation operates 33 charter schools in Texas, more than any other charter school operator, and receive $100 million in taxpayer money. An excerpt:
Some of the schools’ operators and founders, and many of their suppliers, are followers of Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic Turkish preacher of a moderate brand of Islam whose devotees have built a worldwide religious, social and nationalistic movement in his name. Gulen followers have been involved in starting similar schools around the country — there are about 120 in all, mostly in urban centers in 25 states, one of the largest collections of charter schools in America.

The growth of these “Turkish schools,” as they are often called, has come with a measure of backlash, not all of it untainted by xenophobia. Nationwide, the primary focus of complaints has been on hundreds of teachers and administrators imported from Turkey: in Ohio and Illinois, the federal Department of Labor is investigating union accusations that the schools have abused a special visa program in bringing in their expatriate employees.

But an examination by The New York Times of the Harmony Schools in Texas casts light on a different area: the way they spend public money. And it raises questions about whether, ultimately, the schools are using taxpayer dollars to benefit the Gulen movement — by giving business to Gulen followers, or through financial arrangements with local foundations that promote Gulen teachings and Turkish culture.
For more about earlier allegations as to the Gulen movement's abuse of the U.S. visa system (now the subject of an FBI investigation), click here. For more on the Gulen movement in Turkey, see past posts.

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