I really was stunned last month when I read a front-page article in the New York Times, carried over to two pages on the inside of the newspaper, about the many charter schools run by people from Turkey. Charter schools operate with taxpayers' money.
The secret of this operation is the meteoric rise and financial clout of the Cosmos Foundation, a charter school operator founded a decade ago by a group of businessmen from Turkey. Operating under the name Harmony Schools, Cosmos has become the largest charter school operator in Texas, and now has 33 schools, educating more than 16,000 children, and receiving more than $100 million a year in taxpayer funds. Nearly all the 33 principals are Turkish men.
This group has nurtured a close-knit network of businesses and organizations run by Turkish immigrants. The businesses include the big contractors that build the schools, plus a long list of smaller vendors selling school lunches, uniforms, after-school programs, Web design, teacher training, and even special education assessments.
Some of the schools' operators and founders, and many of their suppliers, are followers of a charismatic Turkish preacher named Gulen. He is described as a moderate brand of Islam whose followers have built a worldwide religious, social and nationalistic movement in his name. Gulen's followers have started about 120 schools around the United States in 25 states. This surely is one of the largest chains of charter schools in America. These schools have imported hundreds of teachers and administrators from Turkey. Almost all construction and renovation work has been done by Turkish-owned contractors. The schools are run by boards of Turkish-born men.
The New York Times is now looking more closely into the activities of these charter schools, and I will be eagerly awaiting a follow-up article.
Listen to the radio commentary here: