“… documents available at various foundation websites and in federal forms required of non-profit groups show that virtually all of the schools have opened or operate with the aid of Gulen-inspired “dialogue” groups, local non-profits that promote Turkish culture. In one case, the Ohio-based Horizon Science Academy of Springfield in 2005 signed a five-year building lease with the parent organization of Chicago’s Niagara Foundation, which promotes Gulen’s philosophy of “peace, mutual respect, the culture of coexistence.” Gulen is the foundation’s honorary president. In many cases, charter school board members also serve as dialogue group leaders.Education officials who are familiar with them say the schools aren’t trying to proselytize for Gulen’s vision of Turkey. While Turkish language and culture are often offered in the curriculum, there’s no evidence the schools teach Islam.
The growth of these “Turkish schools,” as they are often called, has come with a measure of backlash, not all of it untainted by xenophobia. Nationwide, the primary focus of complaints has been on hundreds of teachers and administrators imported from Turkey: in Ohio and Illinois, the federal Department of Labor is investigating union accusations that the schools have abused a special visa program in bringing in their expatriate employees.But an examination by The New York Times of the Harmony Schools in Texas casts light on a different area: the way they spend public money. And it raises questions about whether, ultimately, the schools are using taxpayer dollars to benefit the Gulen movement — by giving business to Gulen followers, or through financial arrangements with local foundations that promote Gulen teachings and Turkish culture.
The firm, Amsterdam & Partners, filed a 32-page complaint … with the state that details “some very concerning issues and some apparent illegal or improper conduct related to these school operators,” said John Martin, senior counsel for the firm. Among the allegations: Harmony hires under-qualified Turkish teachers and steers business to companies run by Turkish nationals, including some former Harmony employees.Soner Tarim, Harmony’s chief executive officer, called the complaint “ridiculous and baseless.” He said it’s a politically motivated attack by Turkey’s president, whom he says most Turks living in the U.S. don’t support. Many allegations are old and have been addressed, settled or dismissed, he said.