Texas education officials dismissed a complaint filed by the Turkish government against the state’s largest charter school network, Harmony Public Schools, reportedly linked to reclusive Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen.
In a letter Friday, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Special Investigations Unit Director Brenda Meyers summarized that they found complaint allegations including sketchy business practices, fraud, and financial mismanagement either unfounded or the agency lacked the authority to investigate further. She stated they closed the complaint review.
Breitbart Texas reported the Republic of Turkey filed a 32-page complaint against the Houston-based Harmony Public Schools governing board and charter holder, the Cosmos Foundation, in May. The grievance pressed the TEA to investigate and sanction the charter chain over a host of questionable issues such as purported misuse of the H1-B visa program, misappropriation of taxpayer funds, shady business dealings, conflicts-of-interest, preference for Turkish vendors, discrimination against English Language learners and Students with Disabilities, and preferential hiring of Turkish nationals and male teachers. A 12-page supplemental claim filed in July by Turkish government attorneys Amsterdam & Partners accused Harmony of more than $18 million-worth of taxpayer fraud in Texas.
The complaint also claimed the charter chain had ties to Gülen, the 75-year-old Muslim cleric living in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania since 1999. Harmony officials have insisted they have no connection to Gülen, who is considered a powerful and determined opponent of Turkish President Erdoğan, although they were once allies. The complaint accused Harmony of funneling money into the Gülen Organization. Erdoğan accused Gülen of masterminding Turkey’s failed military coup this summer.
In a statement, Robert Amsterdam, attorney for the Republic of Turkey, commented that only two of the more than 10 complaint allegations were investigated, noting the TEA failed to address the substantial “numerous glaring irregularities” because the agency said it lacked the jurisdiction to review many of the complaint charges. Amsterdam called the investigation “politically convenient” for Gülen. He vowed to revisit this matter with other state officials and those capable of defending the interests of taxpayers and school children.
“If the TEA is unable to investigate these egregious abuses by Harmony Public Schools, then we must refer the matter to other state authorities,” said Amsterdam. “Considering that Harmony has set up corporations such as Charter School Solutions (CSS) for the sole purpose of profiting off taxpayer funds dedicated to education, the very serious issues raised in this complaint cannot be dismissed so casually.”
In July, state Representative Dan Flynn (R-Van) urged Attorney General Ken Paxton to examine the troublesome charges the May complaint lodged against Harmony, or turn over an investigation to the Texas Rangers.
On Monday, Harmony attorney Robert Schulman, criticized the Turkish government, calling their complaints “phony accusations” and “simply wrong,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. “The flagrant lies spread by these foreign agents are unconscionable,” he said. “I have been working with charter schools in Texas for 20 years, and I have never seen anything like this.”
Allegedly, Gülen supporters created an estimated 150 U.S. taxpayer-funded open enrollment public charter schools in as many as 26 states under a myriad of franchise names. Many have been under investigation over misuse of public funds, abuse of the H-1B visa program, and kickback schemes much as was alleged in the complaint filed with the TEA.
The largest number of these Harmony schools, 46, operate in Texas and serve 30,500 students. They claim to specialize in math and science, and boast a 98 percent high school graduation rate and 100 percent college acceptance rate. Harmony plans to open 15 new campuses in the Lone Star State over the next two school years, serving another 10,000 students. In Texas, the chain is funded by more than $250 million state and federal taxpayer dollars, annually. These schools are eligible for certain grants and various federal funds, plus the free and reduced breakfast and national school lunch programs.
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