First published on Schools Matter on February 01, 2015
"What's important here isn't which kind of religious group runs these schools, but that public funds are being used to support schools having overarching political and religious agendas like the Gülenist do. This is no different than the right-wing Milton Friedman inspired capitalism indoctrination American Indian Public Charter Schools and Green Dot Public Schools push on their hapless pupils. The former actually requires their charter school students to make daily pledges to our abject political economy. Nor is it any different than the charter school chain that teaches its students that Emmett Till's brutal murder was a just desert for what they termed his "sexual harassment.""—Robert D. Skeels
The announcement earlier this month that Caprice Young would be taking the helm of Fethullah Gülen's failing Magnolia corporate charter chain didn't surprise most of us that follow Young's machinations as a leading member of Los Angeles' neoliberal corporate education reform project. However, a local teacher, seeing the news posted in the California "BATs" message page said "I thought we had gotten rid of her." To which I responded: "No, after she [Caprice Young] left ICEF she was doing consulting and working with her fellow right-wing CORO alum, Bill Jackson, at the disgusting "Great Schools" #NPIC"
I've written about board members of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and California State Board of Education being on the take of the shadowy Gülen corporate charter network. I've also written about how Caprice "Young was…approached by the racist, bigoted, anti-immigrant nativist Steve Poizner and the two of them founded the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)…". I've written some shorter pieces on Young's local activities on behalf of the plutocrat class.
The brilliant Sharon Higgins of The Perimeter Primate, Charter School Scandals, and The Broad Report reached out to me immediately following the announcement. She sent a bunch of materials based on her copious research on the topic and asked me if I'd like to write a new article. I responded that law school is killing me, and asked if I could just drop the contents of her email into a piece with a short introduction. She agreed, and the information follows. Bear in mind she didn't prepare it for publication, it was just to provide me with information.
A. Caprice Young's known pre-Magnolia-employment connections w/the Gulenists
- In 2001, as LAUSD board president, Caprice Young voted to approve the very first Magnolia school
- In 2009, she was the guest speaker at the Pacifica Institute's headquarters in LA (known Gulenist organization; over the years Magnolia has regularly involved students in PI-sponsored events)
- In 2010, the 'Magnolia Foundation' listed Young among its references in a charter school application it submitted to LAUSD (for Magnolia Science Elementary, which never opened).
- In 2014 (Sep), Young participated in an online interview w/Hakan Taymaz of Magnolia (“Exploring Careers for High School Students...”).
- In Jan. 2015, Magnolia announced that it had hired Caprice Young to be its new CEO
B. Magnolia CEO history
- 2002 to 2008: Huseyin “Joseph” Hurmali
- 2009 to 2011: Suleyman Bahceci
- 2012 to 2014: Mehmet Argin
- mid-2014 to early 2015: Murat Biyik (interim)
- early 2015 to TBD: Caprice Young
1. Huseyin “Joseph” Hurmali returned to Turkey several years ago and is now the vice president of the Journalist and Writers Foundation (JWF), one of the Gulenists’ most important organizations. Its Turkish name is Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfı (GYV) and its headquarters is a common stop for groups that the Gulen Movement takes to Turkey. This piece describes JWF as “an Istanbul-based public-relations arm for Gulen’s followers”. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/09/magazine/whose-turkey-is-it.html
2. Suleyman Bahceci went on to become the CEO of the Accord Institute for Educational Research, a vendor that only serves a set of charter schools in AZ, CA, CO, NV, and UT, all of which are Gulen Movement-associated. As you might know, in July 2014 a judge barred two LAUSD Magnolia schools (MSA-6 and MSA-7) from doing business with Accord.
3. Mehmet Argin’s LinkedIn page says he is now a “Power Systems Researcher” at University of Northern Iowa. Argin had been working for the Gulen charter school network since at least 2009 (multiple Sonoran Science Academy schools in AZ, then for Magnolia).
4. Murat Biyik appears to most recently have worked for the Accord Institute. Before that he worked at Gulen charter schools in AZ, UT, and CA (all of which do business with the Accord Institute). Of special note is that when Biyik was vice principal of the Utah school in 2007, he loaned it an amount equivalent to his salary ($61,000). Other large loans were made to that school by people who have served on Magnolia's board or who have worked for Accord. http://www.sltrib.com/education/ci_12855515 The 990s (2010, 2011, 2012 ) for Beehive Educational Services (operator of the Utah school) list Biyik as an unpaid board member (vice president), not an employee. At that time he may have been employed by Accord, the school's longtime major vendor.
C. Magnolia's situation
- In 2014 (Jul), the LAUSD board voted to close two Magnolia schools, based on the findings of an OIG audit (the report was a draft at this point). Magnolia takes them to court and the judge rules that the schools can stay open for the time being, but with stipulations.
- In 2014 (Aug), a local assemblyman is successful with getting the State Auditor appointed to audit additional Magnolia schools (report expected to come out in April 2015)
- In 2014 (Oct), final audit report is released by LAUSD's OIG. Among the findings are that some of the Magnolia schools are financially insolvent, but this is strongly disputed by Magnolia.
- Early 2015, Magnolia hires Caprice Young (who at one point had been hired to bail out another financially troubled charter school chain, ICEF Public Schools). Young told the LA Times that Magnolia is not in financial trouble but suffers from weak management and a lack of transparency. She also claimed to not be "aware of any direct links with Gulen."
FYI, Gulen's tie to the Magnolia schools was reported to Turkish readers in 2010. http://gundem.milliyet.com.tr/walmart-tan-gulen-okullarina-bagis/guncel/gundemdetay/27.08.2010/1281603/default.htm
And the main pro-Turkish government, anti-Gulen newspaper notified Turkish readers that Caprice Young was hired by Gulen's Magnolia organization. http://www.sabah.com.tr/dunya/2015/01/13/gulenin-abddeki-okulu-iflasa-gidiyor