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Fethullah Gulen Should Not Be Operating American Charter Schools.

July 17, 2016

According to Reuters on July 17, 2016, the mysterious Turkish imam who has been a Pennsylvania resident since 1999, Fethullah Gulen, has said that his followers are not responsible for the failed coup to overthrow the Turkish government and that he would abide by any US decision to extradite him. Turkey is apparently planning to formally request Gulen’s extradition.

However, Gulen added that he is “not really worried” about being extradited.

fethullah gulen  Fethullah Gulen

On Friday night, July 15, 2016, “a faction of Turkey’s armed forces tried to seize power”; to date, almost 300 died, including 100 involved in the putsch. Gulen’s involvement was quickly questioned.

In the United States, Gulen runs a growing network of charter schools, which his followers apparently use to gain entrance into the United States. I wrote about Gulen, his schools, and his influence in Turkey from his comfortable base on US soil in my book, Schools Choice: The End of Public Education?which was just published on July 8th. Below is an excerpt from the chapter on Gulen, entitled, “Gulen Charters: A Powerful Turkish Cleric’s Followers Find a Cozy Home in the American Taxpayer Pocket” (reference citations deleted here for ease of reading):

On May 13, 2012, 60 Minutes journalist Leslie Stahl reported on American charter schools run by “mysterious Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen,” an acknowledged cult leader in Turkey who lives in the Poconos in Pennsylvania in a gated community.


Here is how Stahl opens her 13-minute segment:

Over the last decade, scores of charter schools have popped up all over the U.S., all sharing some common features. Most of them are high achieving academically; they stress math and science. And one more thing: They’re founded and largely run by immigrants from Turkey who are carrying out the teachings of a Turkish Islamic cleric, Fetullah Gulen. He is the spiritual leader of a growing and increasingly influential force in the Muslim world, known as the Gulen Movement, with millions upon millions of disciples, who compare him to Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Gulen promotes tolerance, interfaith dialogue, and, above all, he promotes education. And yet, he’s a mystery man. He’s never seen or heard in public, and the more power he gains, the more questions are raised about his motives and the schools.

Is America so enamored with high academic achievement that the nation is willing to surrender its children to questionable individuals for the sake of good grades and high test scores?

Do we no longer care to know exactly who is molding the minds of our children?

These things ought not to be. And yet, in the case of Fethullah Gulen, they are.

Note that from the outset, Stahl is receiving her information not from direct interactions with “mystery man” Gulen, but through what his followers say about him—followers allowed to establish schools on American soil, teach American children, and draw American tax dollars for doing so— ”nearly $150 million a year,” according to Stahl.

Here is a question: Why is the U.S. educational system allowing its largest chain of charter schools (130 schools in 26 states in 2012, up to 139 schools in 26 states in 20145 ) to be run by a man who is a mysterious, established power in a foreign country and lives in posh seclusion in the United States?

Stahl does not delve into that question. She does address the issue of Gulen’s mysterious persona later in her piece, and she uncovers additional reasons that U.S. citizens should be concerned about Gulen. However, for the seriousness of what she uncovers, Stahl’s feature lacks power. She begins and ends soft on Gulen and his schools, despite touching on some critical information in the middle. Still, in her 13-minute 2012 broadcast, Stahl did bring national attention to Gulen charter schools. For that reason, I will detail her 2012 Gulen report in this chapter.

In the opening of Stahl’s 2012 60 Minutes news segment, she is obviously impressed by the Gulen school that she features, Harmony Public School in Houston, one of “an expanding chain of 36 [Gulen] charter schools in Texas.” And what she shows of the school is nominally impressive: The broadcast features a handful of happy students speaking much better English than their Gulen teachers and demonstrating their science projects, along with a discussion with an American administrator of Gulen’s Harmony Schools, Julie Norton, about the waiting list of 30,000 students hoping for a chance to become one of Gulen’s students, who numbered 20,000 at that time. The segment shows students sitting at computers doing school work with an American teacher teaching a lesson in front of a class.

Then comes Stahl’s interview with one of the numerous Turkish teachers, “some just recently arrived and hard to understand.” The brief segment in which she interviews one Turkish teacher is notably unintelligible.

Stahl is able to access Gulen on the web (just as you or I might do) and features him in part of a video as stating that teaching science is worshiping God. Apparently, Gulen tells his followers not to build mosques, but schools to teach science.

And so, because America opens her doors to allow questionable individuals from other countries to just come on in and establish their own schools in the name of offering Americans “choice,” it seems that Gulen’s followers have decided to establish their presence in America. Plus, there are those under regulated tax dollars sweetening the deal—and that can be sent back to the likes of Fetullah Gulen and his followers. Note, however, that the Gulen school presence is global, with the number of Gulen schools totaling roughly 1,000 worldwide. …

Gulen charter schools provide remarkable opportunities for their founder’s followers to maximize profits. And maximizing profits appears to be a central focus of Gulen’s teachings. In Turkey, Stahl learned that for years, Gulen has taught his followers to emulate Western culture, including the drive for financial success. In fact, Stahl cites another Internet video in which Gulen tells followers, who reportedly number in the millions,15 that not seeking to be wealthy is sinful.16 Heeding Gulen’s advice to become Western wealthy, his followers have established the Gulen empire worth multiple billions and including schools, a television station, a Turkish bank, and its principal trade association and newspaper.

Gulen is a very powerful man.

And from later in the chapter:


Even though citizens in Turkey are afraid to discuss the Gulen movement, Mary Addi has spoken out in the United States. She offered additional details in her 2013 interview at a Virginia school board meeting:

The majority of them are all Turkish board members. . . . We have copies of emails, and they’re always, their administrative emails are always sent in Turkish to each other and to board members. . . . But they refer to Americans that show up at the board meetings as “foreigners,” and that they will have to have a second meeting if the “foreigners” show up.

We have uncovered evidence of vast immigration fraud with the H-1B visas and the green card applications. We have uncovered money laundering…. My husband and I have been actively involved in federal investigations for the past five years, and it is my hope that within the near future that this will come to fruition and we’re going to start seeing some people arrested and deported, as they well should be.

As of June 2014, as part on its ongoing investigation into Gulen school operations, the FBI had raided 20 charter schools in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, and Louisiana. …

And even later in the chapter:

In the United States, Gulen followers serve as the principal faculty at scores of American charter schools; these Turkish immigrants come to America via necessity visas without education degrees or experience in teaching. These schools apparently do not seek to hire qualified American teachers. The Gulen school administrators have access to millions of dollars in American taxpayer money; at least one former employee turned FBI informant has shared details of a purported kickback scheme. At the very least, these findings underscore the need for both continued scrutiny of an organization to which the education of American children is entrusted through the largest charter school network in the nation and stronger controls over a chartering system that would allow a cult leader to operate schools in the first place.

The above provides a brief detailing of my chapter on Gulen.

The rest is available to readers of my book.

all 3 books


Just Released– Book Three:

School Choice: The End of Public Education? 

school choice cover  (Click image to enlarge)

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher with real credentials, and author of both A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education and Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

  1. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you!!! I am sharing this important information via FaceBook. I hope we see this information show up in our national media.

  2. So sad. I’m neither informed enough, nor inclined to discuss the internal politics of Turkey. What I do know for certain is that Gülen and his shadowy cult run the largest corporate charter school chain in the U.S. This is the inevitable result of fact that charter schools are privately managed, but publicly funded. The only way to take away one of Gülen’s biggest revenue streams is to shutter his vast network of charter schools. While we’re at it, we should shut all charter schools down, since another greed driven group will just take Gülen’s place. The concept of contracting the private sector for something that is best handled by the community is flawed from inception. It’s past time to put these greedy charter profiteers out to pasture, and stop enabling individuals like Gülen from using our scarce tax dollars to fund coups.

  3. Ray Triana permalink

    How interesting the way in which foreign adventures result in unforeseen blowback. Here is one source that claims that Gulen is actually a CIA asset, who was given safe haven in Pennsylvania by our own government, and that Gulen’s involvement in the coup is actually in furtherance of US geopolitical strategy as it relates to Turkey, perhaps explaining the DOJ’s reluctance to pursue claims of visa fraud. Who knew that the CIA’s policies abroad may have a direct link to the decline of public education here in the US.

    • Don’t forget money was pledged at one time to the Clinton foundation..and Bill was a supporter of theirs…so many visas were given to uqualified teachers and much of the construction was given to foriegn contractors using US tax dollars

  4. Laura H. Chapman permalink

    Here is a goldmine of data assembled by a teacm of lawyers working on behalf of the Government of Turkey to bring Harmony Schools of Texas into the public eye for over-the top visas, issues of self dealing and the like.

  5. T lefever permalink

    I am very concerned about the Clinton’s foundation relationship with Gulen…I have read about many complaints regarding the Harmony schools yet it seems to go no where…in 2014 Bill Clinton spoke in Gulen we have suspious comments coming out of Turkey.,,how is the foundation involved..SOUNDS LIKE MILLIONS OF $$$$$$

  6. Linda permalink

    The CEO of Harmony Schools is a Spring 2017 Fellow of the Gates-funded Aspen Pahara Institute.

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