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Charter schools, public risk, political gain

Michael Hight

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 michael_hight@sbcglobal.net.

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Posted by on Jul 7 2011. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

4 Comments for “Charter schools, public risk, political gain”

  1. jj

    “Immigration of teachers from Turkey under the H1B visa program is allowed if a qualified American teacher cannot be found.”

    Not True!

    H-1Bs may be hired even when qualified American teachers can be found. In fact, the H-1B law allows American teachers already hired to be dismissed and replaced by foreign workers. The advantage to hire them is that they are cheap.

  2. Yes, the attack against public schools is a form of outsourcing that all Texans should be stopping. While the vast majority of companies can conduct segregated recruiting and hiring with corporate H1-b visas, Harmony may not be allowed.

    Harmony may be considered “h1-b dependent”. this is a term for companies that use the corporate visa program so much that their staff includes 15% or more on H1-b visas. If this is so, then Harmony must attest that they sought US teachers before recruiting abroad. I wonder if they are doing so.

    On a related note, Senator Cornyn has requested the USCIS to recind it’s ban on temp staffing firms accessing the h1-b corporate visa program on Friday, July 1st. Most of these companies would be allowed to conduct segregated recruiting drives for their Texas job openings.

    BTW, Newt Global headquartered in Dallas, TX, is hosting US job fairs…but you gotta go to India to apply.

    I hope Texans don’t allow Sen. Cornyn to help companies avoid hiring Texans for their Texas openings.

  3. Harmony Parent

    My son has been lucky enough to be a student at a Harmony charter school going on his sixth year now and I can testify that much of what Mr. Hight has stated or is implying is highly inaccurate. The schools emphasize college preparedness for ALL and they have never promoted a religious agenda of any kind. I have never seen any student pushed out for under acheiving. I have however seen struggling students be required to attend extra tutorial classes to get them the help they need. Yes they lose a few students to the regular high schools (certainly not even close to the statisic he is quoting), but this is primarily because the students want to be involved with football, or band or other extra curricular activities they do not provide. The Harmony Public Schools are free college prep schools that primarily emphasize math and science. Unfortunately here in America we have not held our teachers at the level of esteem they deserve, and their low salaries we pay them make it difficult to attract teachers to the math and science fields. There is a need for highly qualified teachers in these fields, and a greater need to raise the bar back up on education in America. The Harmony public school system has found a way to do this. I am disappointed that Mr. HIght’s article is blind to their incredible success story. I know I thank God everyday that Harmony opened a charter school in our neighborhood. My son will be ready to go to college when he graduates thanks to them.

  4. GOkhan Saygili

    Last year I was invited as a judge to one of the Harmony Science Fairs where students presented their ideas in different categories (e.g. science, engineering). The students were awesome, we (the judges) really had hard time to select the best. After this experience, I found your article very disappointing. One good reason for me to believe that your opinions are biased is that there is no reference for a parent in your article? Why did you not bother yourself interviewing with any parents about theirs kids’ school life?

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