Yes, President Erdogan of Turkey has called upon the U.S. government to extradite the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish citizen who lives in Pennsylvania. Erdogan claims that the Gulen movement is behind this week’s coup against the Turkish government. None of this has been documented, and one would think it is irrelevant to our schools.
In may be difficult to believe, but the Gulen movement has one of the largest for-profit charter chains in the country. Fethullah Gulen says he is not personally involved in U.S. charter schools, but his movement is. One list includes 146 schools, ten of which are in Florida. Two Gulen schools had to close in Gainesville. Their teachers were the lowest paid in the county, and their students were not academically successful.
Two years ago, the FBI raided twenty Gulen schools suspected of ‘white collar crime’ in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Lousiana. Some allege that the FBI is investigating H1B visa fraud because so many of the Gulen school teachers are recruited from Turkey. The Atlantic published an extensive review of the financial mismanagement and self enrichment at Gulen Schools. The authors emphasize that there is no evidence that these schools teach Islam. It is also true that similar charges of financial mismanagement have been levied against U.S. based charter schools.
Whether or not Gulen schools have hidden agendas as some allege, there is something unsettling about a company based in a foreign country that runs the largest charter chain in the United States and using U.S. tax dollars to fund an international religious movement.