Charter schools, public risk, political gain
Stunning, jaw dropping hypocrisy! The conservative Republican Texas legislature, in Senate Bill 1, passed in June, will guarantee the bonds sold by the private owners of charter schools. Privately owned charter schools, for example, Harmony Charter Schools, will be authorized by the state of Texas to sell bonds to construct new school buildings. The state will guarantee them by giving charter schools access to the Permanent School Fund. Isn’t this the Wall Street model …. privatize the profits and socialize the loses. Newly minted AAA rated financial instruments will be bundled to hedge fund managers and other “investors.” Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be made by bond rating agencies and financial institutions that put these bond offerings together.
Remember the rating firms that provided AAA ratings, paid for by Wall Street, for worthless mortgage backed securities. The Texas taxpayer will now be on the hook for this private sector school financing scheme. The relevant section of SB 1 states, “Senate Bill 1. Sec. 45.052. GUARANTEE. (a) On approval by the commissioner, bonds issued under Subchapter A by a school district or Chapter 53 for a charter district, including refunding bonds, are guaranteed by the corpus and income of the Permanent School Fund. There is more. Harmony Charter Schools is the largest charter school chain in the state boasting of 36 schools. Don’t let them tell you charter schools are public schools, they are not. Public schools don’t have the luxury of “encouraging” a child to leave because they might jeopardize the school’s test scores. Charter schools game the system by inflating their successes through a process called “dumping”. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) acknowledges that Charter schools “dump” low performing students and students with special needs. They push these students out of their school. Dr. Ed Fuller has been quoted saying, “It’s not hard to be ‘exemplary’ if you lose all the kids who aren’t performing”. Harmony schools “lose” an extraordinarily high number, about 50 percent, of their students in grades 6 through 8 according to Fuller, a University of Texas-Austin researcher. Charter schools do not out perform our public schools. They create havoc. Charter schools that have closed still owe the state 21 million dollars because they exaggerated their enrollment numbers. Besides their “dumping” policies, Harmony Charter schools have been associated with the Gulan Islamic movement. Harmony does not teach Islam in the schools, but their Gulan associations are undeniable according to University of Oregon’s Joshua Hendrick, Ph.D. His research extensively studied the Gulanists and their worldwide operations.
Under the radar of the American public, the Gulan Islamic movement has been quietly advancing its presence in the United States through the establishment of charter schools by their acolytes. Texas politicians are well aware of this movement. Gulanists continue to build their political cover by targeting, influencing, and giving gifts and trips to Turkey to our politicians. Fethullah Gulan, left Turkey under threat by the Turkish government for his attempts to establish an Islamic government and some consider him the contemporary Islamic version of American evangelist Billy Graham. The Gulan movement goes beyond charter schools. Their public relations strategy incorporates the establishment of “cultural centers” and “interfaith dialog” centers. They are extremely well funded and politically connected. Cosmos Foundation, Inc., owners of Harmony Schools hired Jennifer Sarver, of BursonMarsteller, one of the world’s largest public relation firms. Karen Hughes is Global Vice-Chair of BursonMarsteller. This is a very expensive and high powered public relation effort. Followers of the Gulan Movement operate banks, educational institutions, media, and business networks in more than 100 countries around the world.
The Cosmos Foundation, Inc. which operates the Harmony schools filed for 1,157 visas applications (H1-Bs) since 2001. It has brought 731 administrators and teachers from Turkey using H1-Bs surpassing all other secondary education providers nationwide. Immigration of teachers from Turkey under the H1B visa program is allowed if a qualified American teacher cannot be found. Questions abound regarding the qualifications of these Turkish teachers as well as Harmony’s sincerity in attracting and hiring qualified American teachers. All the principals of Harmony schools just happen to be Turkish men. Contracting, maintenance, and a plethora of vendor contracts (food service, uniforms, books, furniture, etc.) which by law should go to the lowest bidder are in question. It has been reported that local Texas businesses have been shut out and bids awarded to Turkish owned firms. Large capital improvements and new building construction projects will be financed by Harmony bond initiatives, awarded to Turkish construction firms, and insured by the state, meaning … you. These contracts represent tens of millions of dollars.
Here’s the right wing Republican plan: Put the public school system under relentless attack for political, ideological, and financial gain. Selectively target public schools in the inner cities where poverty is the norm and low performance is a problem and portray every public school in the same light. You know the propaganda is coming when they start talking about “government run schools”, “competition”, “choice”, and “21st century skills”. A recent New York Times article by the conservative David Brooks uses the language of the propagandist when he speaks of the school “reform movement” or the “reformers”…. a detestable perversion of the English language in the context that they use it. These right wing extremists corrupt the language; undermine our traditional public schools for profit and political advantage.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and will never be”. Texas state government has seen to it that we rank almost at the bottom of the nation in public school funding (48th). Our public school teachers, staff, and administrators deserve better by virtue of their performance and the indispensible value they add to our community. Let me be clear. I am not in any way against privately funded faith based schools. However, Harmony Charter Schools and other charters, funded by taxpayer’s dollars, by their own doing, have raised serious questions about their practices at many levels not the least of which is the promotion of a particular religion and culture directly or indirectly. Finally, the Texas taxpayer should not bear the risk associated with the creation and issuance financial instruments for the private sector…. never, never, never.
Michael Hight is a retired pharmaceutical executive. His education includes a Bachelor’s degree in microbiology, with graduate studies in political science and additional courses in business management abroad. He can be reached at [email protected]