Friday, June 04, 2010

Mysterious religious-political group's charter network

Sharon Higgins at the Perimeter Primate blog in Oakland is reporting that about 90 charter schools around the nation are run by insiders in the Gulen movement, described in the one mainstream news report on this issue as "a powerful Islamic movement unknown to many Americans." It's based in Turkey and involves a political/religious movement that is described as wanting to restore the Ottoman Empire.

I am not posting from an informed perspective on this issue, though in my opinion, publicly funded schools should not be run by ANY political/religious movement.

This sounds like some paranoid fantasy, I know, and some of the numerous resources that show up on a Google search are right-wing projects that wouldn't normally be my preferred information sources — put it that way. But there's enough solid information to give it credibility.

The schools seem to be run and staffed by Turkish emigres (or Turkish nationals), but they don't appear to aim at serving Turkish students. A number of the schools on a list on a website called Turkish Forum are in the L.A. area and elsewhere in Southern California: two Magnolia Science Academies on Sherman Way and Kittredge Street in Reseda; Magnolia Science Academy 3, Gardena; Magnolia Science Academy 4, Venice; Magnolia Science Academy 5, Hollywood; Momentum Middle School, San Diego; and reportedly to have opened in 2009, Pacific Technology Schools in Santa Ana and San Juan. I haven't checked up on all these schools yet.

In my area, one low-performing Oakland charter school called Bay Area Technology School (BayTech) is part of the network. Its operators tried to open a charter school here in San Francisco a few years ago but gave up when the Board of Ed voted it down.

Don't miss Sharon Higgins' full post on the Gulen schools

A rare mainstream news report on this appeared in the Salt Lake City Tribune last year.

This could be a test of the charter movement's newly professed opinion that charter schools should be overseen and held accountable. (Or, I suppose, it could just be ignored in the general din.)