More than 120 charter schools in 25 states have been founded by followers of Fethullah Gullen, an Islamic leader exiled by Turkey. Federal agents are investigating whether teachers imported from Turkey have been forced to kickback money to a Muslim movement known as Hizmet. The FBI and Departments of Labor and Education investigators are involved, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Unlike in Turkey, where Gulen’s followers have been accused of pushing for an authoritarian Islamic state, there is no indication the American charter network has a religious agenda in the classroom.
Religious scholars consider the Gulen strain of Islam moderate, and the investigation has no link to terrorism. Rather, it is focused on whether hundreds of Turkish teachers, administrators, and other staffers employed under the H1B visa program are misusing taxpayer money.
Gulen schools used 684 H1B visas in 2009 to bring in Turkish administrators and teachers. Many of the teachers were math and science specialists.
Ruth Hocker, former president of the parents’ group at the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania Charter School in State College, began asking questions when popular, certified American teachers were replaced by uncertified Turkish men who often spoke limited English and were paid higher salaries.
Although the school is located near Penn State, which graduates many certified teachers, school officials claimed “they couldn’t find qualified American teachers,” Hocker said.
An anti-Gulen web site also accuses the schools of hiring Turkish teachers who speak poor English, hiding ties to the Gulen movement and focusing resources on “a small group of high-performing students” who compete in math and science competitions, “while the curriculum is mundane or even deficient for the remaining students.” The site does not claim the schools teach Islam.
Here’s a pro-Gulen web site.