Monday, November 18, 2013

Beware the “Gulenization” of public charter schools

Moss Gropen
San Diego Reader

Who is Fethullah Gulen, and why does he want to teach San Diego’s kids? That’s a question some in the wake of a recently submitted application by Gulen’s followers to open their second public charter school in San Diego.

“Think of a combination of the Scientologists, the Moonies, and the Mafia. That’s what the Gulenists are like,” says Sharon Higgins. “They’re shady, nebulous, and very secretive. Very few Americans know that they’re behind all of these taxpayer-funded charter schools.”

Higgins, a former public school parent and self-described “parent activist” who lives in Oakland, has crafted a quasi-career tracking and chronicling the domestic activities of this Turkey-based group. She lays out the details: Over the past few years, the Gulen movement, an Islamic group that melds religion and politics, has succeeded in a stealth campaign to infiltrate the American educational system via the portal of the charter school. Among their goals, according to Higgins and other Gulen watchers, is fundraising for the Gulen movement in Turkey and the recruitment of future members.

Critics allege that Gulen public charter schools reject qualified American teachers, instead importing Turkish men via H-1B visas, which allow Americans to employ foreigners in “specialty” occupations. These non-union teachers are then paid salaries characterized as “inflated,” and are expected, in turn, to donate a substantial portion to the Gulen movement via a network of “charitable” foundations. There are also charges of sweetheart deals with local Gulen-owned businesses. Gulen U.S.A., say some, is no less than an intricately woven Turkish rug of deceit.

Operating under all-American monikers like “Magnolia Public Schools” and structured as tax-exempt not-for-profit entities, there are nearly 150 Gulen charter schools operating now in America, with around a dozen in California, including one in San Diego: Momentum Middle School in San Carlos. If the Gulenists have their way, San Diego Unified School District will host another Turk-centric schoolhouse when the Fall 2014 semester opens.


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