OP-ED: TX State Rep. links charter schools to Islamic scholar with ties to Turkey violence

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On Monday, Texas State Representative Dan Flynn, of House District 2, which represents Rains, Hunt and Van Zandt counties released an op-ed in which he suggests more than 160 charter schools in the United States, including some in Texas, are linked to Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen, who officials say played a part in the recent failed coup in Turkey.
 
His statement can be read below:
 
Dear Friends, Constituents and Supporters,
 
Much discussion and questions have continued for some time surrounding Harmony Schools. We have been following this issue and thought you might find it of interest.
 
There is an Islamic scholar named Fethullah Gulen who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and who has inspired a network said to include more than 160 charter schools in the United States. Some of those schools are known as Harmony Schools. Multiple media accounts link him to the long term violence and terrorism in Turkey and have resulted in serious questions about the use of Texas payer money that need to be addressed. 
We have been presented evidence from the public record that seems to contradict Harmony’s statements and shows that they are misleading. A seemingly self-dealing arrangement between Harmony Public Schools and a new organization it has created to serve as its real estate arm. Harmony seems to have agreed to overpay Charter School Solutions (CSS) on its leases for Harmony facilities allegedly by over $18 million in taxpayer dollars.  Harmony’s arrangement with Charter School Solutions that raises additional concerns because of its troubling connection to an Oklahoma charter network that is currently under investigation by the Oklahoma State Auditor for similar leasing and construction arrangements, is misuse of state education funds, and making an illegal payment of $175,000 to Harmony Public Schools.
 
Evidence suggests that there have been financial arrangements with at least seven other charter school networks in other states, all part of the Gulen network. Two of those charter schools have been investigated by state or federal authorities. In at least two instances, Harmony seems to have guaranteed leases or bond debt for these out of state schools. There is deep concern over Harmony’s use of Texas state funds to guarantee external debt for these two charter networks that may be in violation of the Texas Public Funds Investment Act, which carefully regulates how entities in charge of public funds may use those funds.
 
Other troubling issues suggest Harmony may have misused state/federal funds and fails to maintain adequate internal records. Complaints with TEA suggest it discriminates against employees based on national origin/gender. Harmony also appears to misuse the H-1B visa program. Harmony has utilized the H-1B program extensively, filing over 3200 H-1B visas to hire and bring over Turkish nationals allegedly to fill math, science, and technology positions they claim they cannot fill with qualified U.S. citizens. However, Harmony has used the H-1B to fill a broad array of positions in non-documented shortage areas, including physical education teachers, legal counsel, college counselors, budget analysts, human resources personnel, and art teachers. Harmony is now “H-1B Visa dependent”, meaning 15% or more of their workforce is comprised of H-1B sourced foreign workers.
 
Harmony Schools also apparently violate open/competitive bidding laws. Seventy-six percent of public funds that Harmony has paid to its largest 54 contractors over the last ten years, a total of over $150 million, has gone to Turkish-owned and operated businesses.  In addition, many of these vendors have significant ties to Harmony’s leadership due to previous employment at Harmony. Why not hire Texans?  There are plenty of experienced, trained teachers, educators and professionals that could fill these jobs suggesting the reasoning for bringing them over could be for other reasons yet to be explained but certainly worrisome to someone who believes in the Judeo-Christian principles that Texas and America are founded upon. 
 
As a result of these concerns, I have called for an open and thorough process of review by the Attorney General’s Office and the Texas Rangers. Texans deserve better and they deserve to be protected from organizations that may be funneling funds to illegal foreign activity and terror.  We need to know.

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