Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Articles reveal rich and powerful forces behind "reform"

When the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education revoked the charter of the Abramson Science and Technology Charter School in New Orleans, it started a nationwide chain reaction of news coverage, mostly focused on the shadowy Gulen movement that inspires charter schools across the country.

The Washington Independent, for one, published this story about the Pelican Foundation, which operated Abramson and still holds charter for Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School in Baton Rouge. The foundation has, the story notes, "been hit hard with allegations of inappropriate use of school space for religious processions, concealing student-on-student sexual harassment and intimidating teachers."

On the heels of that story came this one by USA Today education reporter Greg Toppo, who connected the Pelican Institute schools to more than 100 other charter schools "established over the past decade by a loosely affiliated group of Turkish-American educators," all said to have ties to Turkish nationalist Fethullah Gulen.

Toppo says that Gulen, who fled Turkey and gained political asylum in the United States, is "Described by turns as a moderate Turkish nationalist, a peacemaker and 'contemporary Islam's Billy Graham.' Fethullah G├╝len has long pushed for Islam to occupy a more central role in Turkish society."

On this Web site, Parents Across America charge that "Gulen schools constitute the nation’s largest network of charter schools."

A founding member of PAA says, "Our primary concern is not the national origin or religion of the group running the schools but the facts that they operate in secrecy, are not accountable to the public, and are not open about the nature or extent of the movement behind the charter schools in which unsuspecting parents are enrolling their children.”

All of which tends to call into question the process by which the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approves charters.

And it's not just the Gulen movement that we should be concerned about. In this article from the Louisiana School Boards Association journal, Don Whittinghill documented the intrusion of free-market profiteers into the charter school movement.

As Whittinghill wrote, "Free-market zealots (with riches) realized that over $600 billion is spent in the U.S. on public schools. A whole new frontier leading to stable profits was recognized. Everyone knows 'it takes money to make money,' and the faces behind the voucher/charter 'reform' movement are not bashful in stepping up to the bar."

The LSBA journal names some of the mega-rich corporate types who fund anti-public education "reforms" and back the political candidates who implement them.

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