|Are Texas Turkish Charter Schools Really Public Schools?|
|by MerryLynn Gerstenschlager||Mon, Oct 24, 2011, 08:07 AM|
Had anyone told me that I would end up spending the bulk of my time during the most recent Texas Legislative Session and Special Session lobbying on Turkish charter schools, technically known as Harmony charter schools, I would have laughed at them.
However, this turned out to be no laughing matter and by the end of the Special Session, the legislature had called for an investigation of all charter schools by the House General Investigating and Ethics Committee.
The forthcoming investigation was precipitated by Texas Eagle Forum’s and Peyton Wolcott’s (Publisher – Public Ed Commentary) unsuccessful efforts to amend legislation that will now allow certain charter schools to use the $25 billion dollar Permanent School Fund (PSF) to guarantee new construction bonds. Public schools already enjoy this privilege. The PSF is also known as the Children’s Textbook Fund.
Peyton Wolcott’s research provided outstanding information throughout session. Upon learning that there are 36 Harmony charter campuses in Texas and that their operators are mostly Turkish men who have been educated and previously employed in Turkey, we dubbed the Harmony charter schools “Turkish charter schools.” We began to scrutinize them in the context of this legislation. Harmony is overseen by the Cosmos Foundation, a non-profit organization that has received a quarter of a billion dollars in Texas taxpayer dollars in the past three years. Note that there are 156 Harmony-related charter schools in the U.S.
Harmony refers to their schools as “charter” as well as “public” schools. On February 1, 2011, “Harmony Public Schools” organized the “Bond Financing for Charter Schools” luncheon at the Austin Omni Hotel. Harmony had hired Hughes through Burson-Marsteller, the prestigious marketing firm, to kick off Harmony’s efforts to pass this legislation.
Harmony was scheduled to open a new School of Political Science in Austin in August of 2011.
We were concerned that The TCSA had hired 11 lobbyists to push for this legislation. Among these lobbyists were former State Representative Diane Delisi and former State Senator Kyle Janek. One of the PSF charter school guarantee bills had to pass out of these committees to take on a life in the House and Senate.
The focus on Turkish influence in Texas schools was emphasized when the Senate passed Senate Resolution 85 honoring the Turkish imam Fethullah Gulen. Gulen was given asylum in Pennsylvania in 1997 when he was driven out of Turkey by his own government for trying to reinstate a caliphate in this secular nation. Since then, Gulen lives here in self-imposed exile, even though he has been exonerated in Turkey.
1. Proof of U.S. citizenship for all charter school operator board members and top five highest paid administrators (public ISD trustees must be U.S. citizens). 2. Names, titles, and biographies posted online for all charter operator board members and top five highest paid administrators. 3. Check registers posted online (over 70% of local ISD dollars are online).
We advocated for these safeguards because the bills lacked a requirement for accountability and transparency.
Another push for the legislation came from
The bills to tap into the PSF died during the Regular Session, but were resurrected during the Special Session in June.
By the next to the last day of the Special Session, the charter school PSF school bond guarantee legislation had been amended into a critical budget bill that had to pass to meet constitutional requirements.
Yes, the bill passed, but apparently, some legislators were catching on to the idea that the Turkish charter schools should come under more scrutiny than they had in the past.
Once the investigation begins, The first photo was taken from the campus of Westcreek Elementary School, looking directly across the street to the campus of the Harmony Science Academy.
In the second picture, note Harmony’s signs that say “NO TRESPASSING, NO LOITERING, [and] NO SOLICITING.” And why do they not want to require that their board members seeking the PSF school construction bond guarantee be American citizens just like local school board trustees? Are they genuinely “public” schools?
This brings up another point…the Harmony schools are Texas Education Agency schools, run with taxpayer dollars, that are not controlled by local parents in the form of elected school board trustees. Put another way, these are schools of the state education agency, rather than schools that are accountable to local taxpayers and parents.
I look forward to the upcoming investigation of charter schools. While they have every legal right to experiment with alternative ways of educating students, there can never be a compromise on accountability and transparency in education.
Originally appeared in the Texas Eagle Forum, October/November 2011 – Vol. 24, No. 7. www.texaseagle.org
written by rosiegirl , October 26, 2011
Follow the money for Middle Eastern "investments"...motels, liquor stores, fast food, small groceries in neighborhoods selling lottery tickets and cigarettes, and now education funding.....they are scavengers with an eye for personal money and greed....not legitimate entrepreneurs at all....at the end of the day, they are like rich Mexican illegal aliens that work and send most of the money back home to Mexico....these are scum lords....and their "charter" schools are mostly in areas filled with ignorant minorities that think they are going to get a better "private school" education. FRAUD on AMERICAN TAXPAYERS.
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