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« Power To The Churches To Shine The Light This Election | Main | Santorum Has A Passion For Leading Us Into A Better America »
Wednesday
Apr042012

Let's Not Forget Who Wants To Change The Future of Americans Through Education

Folks please study this--it's happening in Alabama but it is also happening in other state.  In Alabama they are trying to pass this quickly and we need to learn a lesson from Tx--they have over 30 Turkish charter schools go to this website below and after being outraged  Alabamians need to call the legislature as they are trying to pass this by next week. Citizenship issue must be on this bill--let's not hurry it through! Interviewed Mrs. Betty Peters today and we all need to be very, very concerned.

http://www.peytonwolcott.com/SitemapApril2011.html
Link to interview--Mrs. Betty came on about 40 min into the program --listen
Let's wake up our legislators. Thanks.
Numbers to Call to stop-HB 541, Alabama's Charter School Bill --Operator 334-242-8000, Senate 334-242-7800, House 334-242-7600 Changes must be made!
The problem:   HB 541 must be amended to insure Alabama offers the best possible charter schools for our students. Many states are now trying to correct serious problems with their charter schools that we can avoid if our legislature takes its time and diligently studies and debates all aspects of the bill. Regarding Mississippi's pending charter school bill, their House Education Committee Chairman John Moore recently stated, "I don't want the biggest education legislation in years to be a big error. We have to be very careful. "We don't want to unleash a monster."
 
AL"s HB 541 authorizes charter schools to borrow money and issue bonds, but if they go out of business while in debt as many in the nation have, the state is stuck with paying the creditors. This potentially creates a significant liability for the state. Eric Fleischauer wrote in the Decatur Times on April 2, 2012, "A few states have laws that managed to create beneficial charter schools without devastating public schools in the process. A bill pending in the Alabama Legislature, however, fails to find this balance."
Fleischauer also warns that the bill does not limit charter schools to low-performing districts.  (It is commendable that the legislature is currently debating amending this part of the bill. ) Fleischauer also mentioned that although the bill restricts awarding charters to non-profits and secular groups, a charter school can turn around and contract with for-profit or secular groups for management and operations, including educational services.
 
A huge consideration we in AL likely will be facing if this bill is passed in its current form is Turkish charter schools, yet few people are discussing it in our state.   This rapidly growing network of public charter schools  has become a rapidly growing problem in many states. The entity in AL involved in the controversial Gulen Turkish Charter Movement is the Peace Valley Foundation in Huntsville, and it is part of a regional group in the Southeast called the Istanbul Institute. A guest article by Sharon Higgins featured in Valerie Strauss's 3/27/12  Washington Post column explains this issue well.  Since this subject is virtually unknown by our legislators and citizens, I will include a good deal of Ms. Higgins'  article  for your convenience.  The entire column can be read here:      www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/largest-charter-network-in-us-schools-tied-to-turkey/2012/03/23/gIQAoaFzcS_blog.html
 
Higgins wrote:  "The largest charter school network in the United States is operated by people in and associated with the Gulen Movement (GM), a secretive and controversial Turkish religious sect. With 135 schools enrolling more than 45,000 students, this network is substantially larger than KIPP, the well-known charter management organization with only 109 schools.  A lack of awareness about this situation persists despite it being addressed in a national paper and in articles about Gulen charter schools in Utah, Arizona, , Illinois, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, Georgia, and North Carolina..  Ms. Higgins mentioned it has been reported that "the FBI and the Departments of Labor and Education are investigating practices at these schools.” 
 
"The concerns raised about the charter schools in the GM network have related to questionable admissions practices; the channeling of school funds to close associates; abuse of contractors; participation in biased, GM-created competitions; incidents of bribing; using the schools to generate political connections; science fair projects being done by teachers; unfair hiring and termination practices; and more. Still, authorizers continue to approve charter applications, ill-informed parents continue to use them, and taxpayers keep funding the schools – all without much discussion."
 
"The Gulen Movement originated in Turkey in the late 1960s.... Its members are followers of Fethullah Gulen (b. 1941) a self-exiled Turkish preacher [an imam] who has been living on a secluded compound in rural Pennsylvania since 1998. Members call themselves hizmet, meaning “volunteer services” movement. The GM conducts four primary activities around the world: a media empire, business organizations, an enormous number of Turkish culture-promoting and interfaith dialog organizations, and a network of schools in over 100 countries, a large portion of which are U.S. charter schools."
 
"After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the GM began to establish schools outside of Turkey, first in the newly established republics of Central Asia and then beyond. One expert noted that the “...worldwide extent of Fethullah Gulen’s educational network testifies to the internationalist, even imperialist, nature of the movement. Last year an analyst viewed the raison d'être for the schools “spreading across the globe” in this way: “Students will learn how to speak Turkish, the national anthem, how to be the 'right kind of Muslim', etc. In essence, it buys [the GM] loyalty.”
 
"The first Gulen charter school was opened in 1999. U.S. officials have known about the movement’s involvement in charter schools since at least 2006 when our Istanbul consulate noticed that a large number of Turkish men, suspected to be GM-affiliated, were seeking visas to work at charter schools. A company specializing in geopolitical analysis reported in 2010 that the GM was running “...more than 90 charter public schools in at least 20 states.”
 
"Board members of Gulen charter schools are primarily Turkish or Turkic and often can be tied to other Gulenist organizations. GM schools around the world emphasize math, science, and technology, and always provide Turkish cultural instruction. Turkish or Turkic individuals, almost all male, are imported (referred to as “international” teachers) to teach those subjects and serve as school administrators. They sometimes transfer to other schools, but only those within the movement’s network. Around the world, local teachers are usually hired for elementary grades and the non-Gulen favored subjects. The charter schools have been criticized for importing so many teachers but defend their practice by claiming that they are unable to find qualified Americans. "
 
" ...in 2009, readers of Sabah were presented with an account of GM insiders discussing how the U.S. charter schools serve the movement’s goals: “...through education, we can teach tens of thousands of people the Turkish language and our national anthem, introduce them to our culture and win them over. And this is what the Gulen Movement is striving for....A Turkish observer remarked, “No society would tolerate this big of an organization being this untransparent.” When the GM has been exposed involuntarily or criticized, it has been known to respond with evasive measures or defensive attacks. Because of our charter school system, the United States is the only country where the Gulen Movement has been able to establish schools which are fully funded with public money. "
 
"Gulen charter schools regularly take students to Turkey. The movement’s interfaith dialog and Turkish culture-promoting organizations also provide Turkey trips to academics, journalists, politicians and other public officials*. Tours include sightseeing as well as visits to GM-affiliated institutions (news outlets, schools, etc.). A special feature of these guided “cultural immersion” trips is at least one visit to the home of a Turkish family, with up to three different home visits within nine days. A GM insider once explained that hosting visitors is a way for members to contribute to the cause. It is extremely likely that American travelers don’t realize that their experience in Turkey has been carefully designed to be a concentrated and sustained exposure to the social and political views of one religious group. It’s also likely that they do not understand exactly why their trips were made to be so inexpensive, or even free."
 
"Concerns about this group have arisen in other countries, too, especially about their schools being used to recruit members, and spread Turkish culture and fundamentalist religious ideas.  There has been wide speculation on what the Gulen Movement really wants." {Recently while Mississippi;'s legislature has been working on a charter school bill, Jackson's  Clarion Ledger warned readers that "A Turkish foundation ...could be among those seeking to operate charter schools in Mississippi if state lawmakers clear the way.} Mahmut Gok, Mississippi representative for the Raindrop Turkish House... said the Cosmos Foundation {a Gulen affiliate} might be interested. A group of Turkish professionals started the Houston-based Cosmos Foundation, now the largest charter school operator in Texas. The foundation runs 33 Harmony Schools in all the major cities in Texas, educating more than 16,000 children and receiving more than $100 million in taxpayer monies."  See: www.clarionledger.com/article/20120305/NEWS010504/203050324/Outside-firms-could-among-suitors-charter-schools. The Ledger explained, "In a story last year, The New York Times questioned whether any taxpayer funds are going to support followers of Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish preacher who teaches a moderate brand of Islam and promotes a philosophy of "peace, mutual respect, the culture of coexistence." The schools import hundreds of teachers from Turkey each year, according to a 2010 USA Today report.
 
Our neighbor to the north, Tennessee, also has had problems with the Gulen-affiliated Knox Carter Academy in Tennessee as evidenced by this video: :
A  website with extensive information on Turkish Charter schools and organizations in TN as well as in GA is located at http://gulencharterschools.weebly.com;  Another highly respected website with Turkish Charter schools information is located at:  www.peytonwolcott.com
 
=======================================================================================================================
How could AL legislators improve HB 541? Some suggestions for starters:
 
1. Amend the AL charter school bill to mandate that charters must provide proof of US citizenship for all charter school operator board members and top 5 highest paid administrators. In addition, mandate names, titles, and biographies be posted online at the school website for all charter operator board members and top 5 highest paid administrators. (KIPP Charter Schools already does this.)
 
2. Add language that a chartering authority may not approve a charter school application unless it limits its staff positions for teachers, administrators, ancillary support personnel or other employees to not more than 5% of the total number of positions at a single school being holders of a non-immigrant foreign worker H1B or J1 visa.
 
3. Amend language to clarify that charter schools cannot contract with for-profit or religious groups for instructional services.
 
4 Amend language to mandate all charter schools must offer health insurance and retirement benefits.
 
5. Add language to require that the source and amount of all gifts and/or grants be posted on-line.
 
6. Change language so that only local schools can issue charters, and applicants who are turned down can appeal to the state school board, which is an elected board.. Do not set up an appointed board for Charter School Application Review.
 
7. Insure legislation does not authorize charter schools to issue bonds or borrow money.
 
8. Clarify whether charter schools must use the same standards/courses of study and assessments as other AL public schools.
 
As our legislature discusses this important bill, and as the public becomes better informed on the issue and shares their suggestions with their representatives, many excellent ideas should be generated. Just think--Alabama could end up with the best charter schools in the nation.
 
Betty Peters
District 2 Representative
AL State Board of Education
526 Beatrice Rd.
Kinsey, AL 36303
334/ 794- 8024
bpeters@centurytel.net

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