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The Educational Dangers of Gulen Charter Schools

NOTE: Capitalism's push to privatize public education has allowed all forms of hustling to take place under the banner of Charter schools and "school reform." It is, therefore, only logical that an international religious cult with loads of money would take advantage of this new business opportunity to rake in public monies while propagating their brand of mythology in the guise of a religion.

Turkish Pocono resident (yes, he resides up in those hills so conveniently a few hours away from NYC, Philly and DC- yet isolated enough from media and other nosy folk) Fethullah Gulen and his followers are on a roll within the Charter School Movement with about 120 charters operating thruout the US. Below is essential information we need to spread far and wide about the slick and insidious nature of the Gulen Movement's effort to make money and mine recruits from within the charter school movement that's being pushed from the Oval Office, Wall Street and conservative forces all over the US.


New York State has three of these charters:
New York  
Syracuse Academy of Science
Buffalo Academy of Science
Rochester Academy Science School

It is unclear whether or not the Gulen Movement will try to establish at least one charter in New York City.

Folks, this is not about being patriotic. It's about fighting all the different ways public education is becoming privatized and mere anti-intellectual centers of simplistic, sexist, racist and antiscience propaganda to make sure that the masses "suffer peacefully" and not resist tyranny.

Much more info can be found at


WikiLeaks files detail U.S. unease over Turks and charter schools

April 04, 2011|

Classified documents recently released by WikiLeaks recount U.S. officials' growing concern over large numbers of Turkish men seeking visas to work at American charter schools founded by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a powerful Turkish Muslim political figure who lives in the Poconos.

"Gulen supporters account for an increasing proportion of [the] . . . nonimmigrant visa applicant pool," a consular official in Istanbul, Turkey, wrote in 2006, according to one of the documents posted by WikiLeaks two weeks ago.

"Consular officials have noticed that most of these applicants share a common characteristic:

They are generally evasive about their purpose of travel to the United States."
One destination for visa holders is the Truebright Science Academy, a charter school founded in North Philadelphia by followers of Gulen.

An analysis of H1-B visas conducted for The Inquirer showed that the number granted for Gulen charter schools has grown substantially since that 2006 report. More than 2,500 have been issued since 2007.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services granted 509 of the H1-B visas in 2007. In 2010, the total was 839 - a 65 percent increase.

Truebright, which opened in 2007 and has 348 students in seventh through 12th grades, has received 21 visas, including for a school director, counselors, and math and chemistry teachers.

As a public charter school approved by the Philadelphia School District, it receives more than $3 million a year in district money.

The acting chief executive at Truebright, Tansu Cidav, has declined to discuss the school's operation.

Turkish staffers at Truebright are paid more than their American counterparts, state pension records show. In the last school year, a Turkish math teacher who was not certified and spoke little English was paid $54,000; a certified American science teacher was paid $40,200.

Gulen, who is in his early 70s, lives in self-imposed exile in an enclave in Saylorsburg, Pa. A federal judge in Philadelphia granted Gulen a green card in 2008 after Gulen appealed a Department of Homeland Security ruling that he did not meet the criteria to qualify as an "alien of extraordinary ability."

In his appeal, he emphasized his renown as an educational figure. A spokesman for Gulen, Bekir Aksoy, told The Inquirer recently that Gulen had no ties to the charter schools, of which there are more than 120 in 25 states. Aksoy said Gulen may have inspired his followers to found the schools.

As The Inquirer has reported, several federal agencies - including the FBI and the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education - are investigating whether charter employees working in this country on H1-B visas are kicking back part of their salaries to a Muslim movement Gulen founded known as Hizmet, or "Service," according to sources.
The inquiry is being coordinated by prosecutors in Pennsylvania's Middle District in Scranton. Federal officials have declined to comment on the nationwide inquiry, but a former leader of the parents group at a charter school in State College, Pa., founded by Gulen followers confirmed that federal authorities had interviewed her.
Many scholars consider Gulen's movement a peaceable, moderate strain of Islam, and the federal inquiries have nothing to do with terrorism. Nor is there any evidence that the Truebright school has included any religious elements in its curriculum.
In Turkey, however, Gulen's followers have been accused of pushing for an authoritarian Islamic state.
Last month, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan - the pro-Islamic prime minister - detained Turkish journalists who had alleged that Gulen followers were infiltrating security agencies.
One of the detained journalists, Ahmet Sik, wrote an unpublished book about Gulen, The Imam's Army. A criminal court in Istanbul recently banned it and confiscated copies of the manuscript. A draft was leaked online a few days ago.
Last week, a Turkish newspaper, Zaman, published a statement from Gulen denying any involvement in blocking the book's publication.
"Many books against me personally have been published," Gulen told the paper, which the U.S. government links to the Gulen movement, according to the documents. "But I have never been engaged in efforts to prevent the publication of a book."
Other U.S. documents released by WikiLeaks detail diplomats' efforts to follow the Gulen movement in Turkey and their growing unease as they observed an increase in its followers heading to the United States to teach.
A report sent from the embassy in Ankara in August 2005 - before Gulen was granted a green card - said Gulenists were worried about negative attitudes toward Gulen in the United States. They traced those attitudes in part to a 2004 FBI report that Gulen's attorneys had obtained through a freedom-of-information request.
The embassy report questioned Gulen's ultimate aims and said the embassy had evidence the movement pressured Turkish businessmen to give money to Gulenist schools and activities.
"We have multiple reliable reports that the Gulenists use their school network (including dozens of schools in the U.S.) to cherry-pick students they think are susceptible to being molded as proselytizers and we have steadily heard reports about how the schools indoctrinate boarding students," the report said.

Many Gulen-sponsored high schools in Turkey are boarding schools. Scholars who have studied the Gulen movement in Turkey have found that many of those students wind up teaching in U.S. charter schools after earning degrees from Turkish universities with Gulen's support.

One of the most detailed reports in the WikiLeaks cache is titled "Fethullah Gulen: Why Are His Followers Traveling?"

Written from Istanbul in 2006, it describes Gulen as "at the apex of a growing global network of organizations that profess a peace-loving, ecumenical vision of Islam."

The writer continued: "Gulen's activities first piqued consular officers' interest several years ago when applicants began to appear seeking to visit a number of charter schools in the U.S. with which consular officers were unfamiliar."

After interviewing "thousands" of Turks seeking permission to travel to the United States, the consular office in Istanbul compiled "a substantial list of organizations that seem in some way affiliated with Gulen." The roster included the Zaman newspaper in Turkey and 30 charter schools the consular office had identified as of May 2006.

The report said that after U.S. authorities in Istanbul and Ankara denied many of the applicants permission to enter the United States on other types of visas, many returned in 2004 seeking H1-B visas "sponsored by Gulen-affiliated science academies."

A disaffected former Turkish teacher who had worked at one of Gulen's charter schools told federal authorities that the movement had divided the United States into five regions. A general manager in each coordinates the activities of the schools and related foundations and cultural centers.

The former teacher also provided a document called a tuzuk, which resembles a contract and prescribes how much money teachers employed on H1-B visas are supposed to return to Hizmet.

Officials at some of the charter schools in the United States, including Young Scholars Charter in State College, have told parents and American teachers that they need to hire Turks for their schools because they cannot find qualified Americans.

But parents and American teachers complain that the Turks employed on H1-B visas - often as math and science teachers - have limited English skills and are paid more than their American counterparts who are certified.

Some have described how uncertified Turkish teachers are moved from one charter school to another when their "emergency" teaching credentials expire. Others recount a pattern of sudden turnovers of Turkish business managers, administrators, and board members.
The H1-B visas, which typically are granted for three years, allow foreign professionals to take jobs in the United States. Employers file applications seeking foreign workers. The program is largely used by companies seeking workers for high-skilled positions in science, math, and technology.
The U.S. government caps the number of H1-B visas approved each year. Citizenship and Immigration Services began accepting applications for fiscal 2012 on Friday.
Claudio Gatti is the New York correspondent of Il Sole 24 Ore, the leading daily financial newspaper in Italy.


Characteristics of Gulen charter schools

What is a Gulen charter school?  

A Gulen charter school is a publicly-funded charter school that was founded and is run by individuals who are secretly followers of a Turkish imam named Fethullah Gulen.  Gulen's followers are called Gulenists, and collectively they form a worldwide covert network called the Gulen Movement.  The key defining feature of Gulen charter schools is that control of the schools' policies and (most importantly) finances lies entirely in the hands of Gulenists.  This allows the Gulenists to use the schools in ways that further the Gulen Movement's goals.  The infiltration of the Gulen Movement into our publicly-funded education system has been made possible by a perfect storm of very lax charter school regulation; the current political climate favoring expansion of charter schools; the Gulenists' unparalleled skills at marketing, deception, and intimidation; the presence of influential sympathizers in our government and in academia; and an extreme reluctance on the part of many journalists, academicians and government officials to involve themselves in this issue for fear they might be labeled as Islamophobic or xenophobic.  

Where are the Gulen charter schools, and how many are there?

The list of names of Gulen charter schools currently in operation in the US is given here at our companion site, which is about the Gulen Movement.  Another blogger is also keeping count of the number of schools.  At last count, 118 are currently in operation, in 25 different states, and the Gulenists are actively proposing and founding new ones (15 are currently in the works, and another 31 were attempted but never materialized).

What sort of information can I find here?

One of the most controversial aspects of these schools has been the public denials made by Gulenist administrators that there is any connection with the Gulen Movement.  Many of the pages here are compilations of evidence that a strong connection exists.  Other pages explore additional issues of concern about these publicly-funded schools.  Our companion site, A Guide to the Gulen Movement's Activities in the US, has more information about the Gulen Movement in general, as the charter schools are only one aspect of this movement's growing influence in our country and around the world.

What are the characteristics of Gulen charter schools?

The following characteristics apply to nearly all of the over 100 Gulen charter schools across the country.  Some exceptions exist; for example, the Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania charter school appears to emphasize languages instead of the usual math/science emphasis.  Some of the newer Harmony schools in Texas have names suggesting themes such as art, nature or political science.  Nevertheless, there are strong commonalities among all these schools.

Emphasis on math
•  School advertised as emphasizing science, yet laboratory facilities are inferior to comparable schools and science classes have minimal or nonexistent experimental component
•  Small select group of students receives intense math coaching and attends numerous math competitions, including Mathcounts; awards generate much positive publicity for school
•  Free after-school tutoring; in some cases Gulenist teachers tutor in students' homes
•  Automated online information system for students' grades and assignments is highly touted as allowing for parental involvement, yet system is not kept current, and may be inconsistent, inaccurate or difficult to navigate
•  Emphasis on science fairs; for most students science project is mandatory
•  Students encouraged to participate in ISWEEEP (Gulenist-run science fair); hotel stay in Houston paid by school
•  Robotics clubs; participation in robotics competitions
•  Home visits offered to all families
•  Major emphasis on awards, mostly won by small fraction of the students
•  Unusually high scores on standardized tests, even with very challenging student demographics
•  Classes divided according to ability in math
•  Turkish language classes; Turkish mandatory in some grade levels; very limited selection of foreign language classes besides Turkish
•  Turkish culture emphasis, e.g., Turkish dance clubs
•  School-sponsored Turkey trips
•  Large number of Turkish/Turkic teachers
•  Participation of students in Turkish Language Olympics
•  Unusually high number of H1B visa applications
•  Many teachers have poor English skills
•  High teacher turnover
•  Gulenist teachers spend unusual amounts of time with students in extracurricular activities or socializing
•  Sleepovers, especially for select group of students participating in math competitions
•  In communications with parents, school awards and achievements are relentlessly emphasized and not put into perspective relative to other non-Gulenist schools
•  Chronic problems with special education compliance
•  Turkish/Turkic teachers and administrators have no work experience in education outside of the Gulen school network
•  School not under local control
•  Application forms are excessively detailed, requiring information that legally cannot be used to determine admission
•  Relentless promotion of school through frequent press releases
•  Continual courting of public officials by administration
•  School administration nearly exclusively Gulenist males of Turkish or Turkic ethnicity
•  Hiring practices favor Gulenists over equally qualified American teachers or administrators
•  Achievements of female teachers minimized or ignored
•  Opportunities for career development much greater for Gulenist teachers and administrators than for American employees
•  Parental involvement encouraged in principle, but steered towards fundraising and supporting school; administration is authoritarian while attempting to appear otherwise
•  Character education classes
•  School inaccurately claims to have few or no discipline or bullying problems
•  Gulenist teachers often highly inexperienced in classroom management
•  In some schools, excessive use of out-of-school suspensions for discipline
•  No trained school counselors
•  Dwindling enrollment with each successive year of high school
•  Sophisticated school security systems in established schools
•  In geographical areas where chain of schools has been established, flagship school is usually of higher quality

by CASILIPS - Citizens Against Special Interest Lobbying in Public Schools

How the U.S. Gulen Charter Schools Serve the Gulen Movement

The network of publicly-funded Gulen charter schools in the United States, now estimated as numbering well over a hundred, serves the Gulen Movement's economic, political and ideological goals in several ways.  This is possible because the key school administration officials and board members, the ones ultimately in control of the schools and their finances, are all Gulenists.

In the United States, examination of federal tax forms as well as school documents has shown that the Gulen charter schools tend to purchase goods and services from Gulenist businesses.  One example is construction work for the Gulen charter schools (Harmony schools) run by the Cosmos Foundation in Texas.  Millions of dollars in contracts were awarded to Atlas Construction and Ege Construction, both of which are based in Turkey; the CEO for the U.S. branch of Atlas (Atlas Texas Construction and Trading, Inc.) is Yunus Dogan, a Gulenist who also serves on the advisory board of ISWEEEP.  Another example is the Gulen charter schools' use of a series of textbooks for Turkish classes that are sold exclusively in the U.S. by Antstores, a Gulenist business in New Jersey.  Thus, while several researchers of Gulen schools have noted that Gulenist businessmen may offer financial help in the startup phase, it is likely that they receive a return once the schools are established, not only in the form of direct business custom, but also because the schools help advertise the businesses by appearing on their lists of highly satisfied customers.

Gulen charter schools also transfer money to Gulenist non-profit corporations for various services.  Examples include Concept Schools and the Accord Institute for Educational Research.  Concept Schools currently manages 19 charter schools in the Midwest, and receives 10% of their revenue as management fees.  The Accord Institute, based on a recent article appearing in an Arizona newspaper, gets $160 per student from its member schools.  While these non-profits have to file annual IRS Form 990s showing their total revenue and itemizing their expenses to some extent, generally no further reporting is required.  Money could potentially be transferred from these non-profits to other Gulenist organizations (and perhaps ultimately to Fethullah Gulen's inner circle) and reported in such a way as to not arouse suspicion.  This is especially so since the accounting books are entirely under the control of Gulenists.  (Note: Gulenists have demonstrated an acute interest in the IRS auditing process.  On March 13, 2010, Mutlu Uzgoren, who works for the IRS Anti-Money Laundering and Fraud Division, gave a seminar at the California Turkish-American Chamber of Commerce, a Gulenist organization.  The topic was the IRS and audit tips, and the CATA Chamber website says that Uzgoren "shared a lot of valuable information" and that the program received "great interest."  It is worthwhile contemplating why Gulenist businessmen might have such a "great interest" in listening to tips from someone knowledgeable about anti-money laundering and fraud.)

The schools also provide an effective forum for soliciting donations for Gulenist
organizations.  Following on the devastating earthquake in Haiti in January 2010, some schools asked for contributions destined for the Helping Hands Relief Foundation, a Gulenist charity.  For example, students at the Buffalo Academy of Science students held a bake sale that raised $1000.20 for Helping Hands.  Other schools have asked parents to donate to ISWEEEP.  In an interesting variation on this, in April 2009, Dove Science Academy asked every family to give $30 towards improving the school playground and ISWEEEP.  The contribution to ISWEEEP was said to be very important to show "appreciation" to the Cosmos Foundation for the $800,000 they were said to have contributed towards starting Dove.

Another way in which the U.S. charter schools serve the Gulen Movement is by functioning as visa factories.  An April, 2010 article in an Arizona newspaper quoted University of Utah professor Hakan Yavuz as saying that the schools are the main avenue for building the Turkish community in the United States.  It would have been more accurate to refer to the Gulenist community rather than the Turkish community, since the schools never sponsor visas for secular Turks or any Turks or Central Asians who are not followers of Fethullah Gulen.  Because of this bias in hiring, secular Turks and other Turks who oppose Gulen have hardly any voice in the United States, even though they constitute a substantial fraction of the Turkish population.  A Deseret News article from June 1, 2010 stated that Beehive Science and Technology Academy, a Gulen charter school in Utah, spent $53,000 in immigration fees over a 5-year period.

The Charter School Watchdog website has documented internal school emails as evidence of its contention that the schools provide contributions to the Gulen Movement through a system where Gulenists are employed at inflated salaries and then required to return a large portion of their earnings to a Gulenist business manager.  The Watchdog website provides a copy of what it states is a document outlining how the amount of money to be returned is calculated. 

An examination of the 253 H-1B visa applications filed by the Cosmos Foundation (which runs the Harmony Gulen charter schools in Texas) for 2008 shows that the wage rate is in many cases substantially higher than the Department of Labor-determined prevailing wage.  Summing the total excess annual wages (offered annual salary minus prevailing annual salary) for all these visas together gives an amount of $842,391. This illustrates that inflated wages indeed have the potential to be a significant source of revenue.

Gulenist administrators at the charter schools are constantly inviting government officials to school events, and their positions at the schools give them an advantage in seeking opportunities to meet with such officials.  This is aimed not only at legitimizing the Movement, but also at increasing its political clout.

Finally, it should be noted that the U.S. Gulen charter schools serve the Gulen Movement's ideological and strategic goals by indoctrinating students in the Turkish language and culture.  At many of the schools, Turkish classes are mandatory in some grades.  The schools keep the options for foreign language besides Turkish very limited.  In some areas many students already know Spanish and may choose Turkish only because it is the sole alternative foreign language option.  Many after-school clubs have Turkish cultural themes - Turkish dancing, Turkish cooking, Turkish water-marbling art, and so forth.  Some schools field trips take students to other Gulen schools or Gulenist organizations.  Students are encouraged to attend Gulenist events such as the Anatolian Cultures and Food Festival in California and the Turkish Language Olympics.  Some select U.S. students go to Gulen schools in Turkey for summer programs, and in at least one documented case, school academic credit is offered for a summer study program that includes Turkish language instruction as well as a trip to Turkey.  Gulenist "Turkey trips," provided at discounted prices to the schools' students, parents and even staff members, and advertised through the schools, give the Movement a chance to promote itself by showcasing its works in Turkey as well as by ensuring that the travelers socialize only with Gulenists.  In some schools, subsidies for these trips are offered to students as a reward for academic performance.  On these trips, American students are encouraged to befriend Turkish students studying at Gulen schools.  All these activities aim at the generation of future American sympathizers for the Movement.


The American Enablers

The Gulenists would never have been able to succeed without their American enablers.  Many of these individuals have never even heard of the Gulen Movement, and are unaware that they are being co-opted to further its agenda.  In every locality where the operate, Gulenists are remarkably skillful at identifying and exploiting community members who can, however unwittingly in some cases, function as allies.

By far the greatest support for Gulen schools comes from ordinary American parents who are simply seeking a high quality school for their child.  The main basis for the Gulen charter schools' reputation is high scores on state standardized tests, which are administered on the school site by school personnel.  We have noted on another page that the reliability of such tests is uncertain, and moreover, that concerns about testing irregularities have been raised in several Gulen charter schools.  

There are however, several other types of American enablers, listed below, including one specific subset of parents:

(1) Ambitious parents of precocious students

If a student is exceptional in math, Gulen charter schools offers opportunities that many other schools do not.  The schools use math placement tests to select a small, elite group (perhaps 1-2% of the student body) of top-performing students who are then given attention in the form of coaching and social activities (such as sleepovers and camps) to a degree that is far beyond what any normal school could offer.  The labor supply for this comes from junior Gulenist teachers on H1B visas, who are forced to work very long hours.  Parents of such students naturally sense that they are getting a remarkable value out of the school.  Moreover, the school has expertise in preparing the students for competitions, and devotes time to seeking out such events and organizing participation of these elite students.  In this symbiotic relationship, parents feel that they win by having their children garner multiple awards, while the school wins because the awards, even though they only reflect a tiny part of the student body, greatly enhance the school’s reputation.  For non-math competitions as well, if a student has any potential to win awards, the school goes to great lengths to facilitate the process and indeed pushes it very aggressively, to enhance its own reputation.  The school administration is constantly massaging the egos of parents of award-winning students by naming their children and displaying photographs of them with their awards in newsletters, circular emails sent out to parents, and press releases.  

(2) Individuals in total denial

Many parents develop social ties with their child's school, and may even become deeply vested in the school through donations or volunteer activities.  Similarly, many teachers want to believe in the school they work in.  Usually these sentiments have a positive effect.  In the case of the Gulen charters, some individuals find the revelation of the underlying reality behind the school, which may have been hidden from them for months or even years, simply too much to handle.  Parents whose children have befriended Gulenist teachers may find it extremely difficult to disengage them from these relationships (this of course is the motivating factor behind many of these schools' activities which are deliberately structured to bring the Gulenists and the students together).  Some individuals or their children are caught up so deeply in the Gulenist school culture that it becomes too painful or too embarrassing to admit the truth.  It is not an easy process for any human being to admit that they have been deceived or manipulated.  Thus, these individuals may resort to the coping mechanism of total denial.  Unfortunately this has the effect of making them the allies of the Gulenists, who are using denial for far more devious reasons.

(3) Individuals or organizations getting their cut
NBC4 in Columbus Ohio recently ran a story on Nov 23, 2010 about increased scrutiny of Concept Schools and the Horizon Science Academy schools in Ohio.  The director of the Buckeye Hope Community Foundation was quoted as strongly defending these schools.  While the article stated that Buckeye Hope is one of Horizon's sponsors, it failed to mention what many readers might not know: that sponsors of charter schools in Ohio are allowed by law to charge schools they authorize fees of up to 3 percent of their per-student state funding.  In another example, an Arizona journalist found that bond deals approved in Pima County, Arizona for several Gulen charter schools, including an approved 90 million dollar bond issue for the Horizon schools in Ohio, were financially beneficial to individuals affiliated with the Pima County Industrial Development Authority, an agency involved in their authorization.

(4) Journalists who reproduce press releases or write without investigating

Gulenists have mastered the art of the press release, and they know that stories about "successful charter schools" or "students excelling in math and science" fit the current national mood and fulfill newspapers' demands for feel-good articles.  Further, such stories are unlikely to receive much scrutiny.  Many journalists seem content to print Gulenist press releases nearly verbatim.  Deficiencies in journalistic fact-checking are manifested in several newspaper articles about Gulen charter schools; one example is an article dated August 20, 2010 in the Baltimore Sun that reads as a lengthy advertisement for Chesapeake Science Point.  The article contains two major errors: it claims that the school receives less than half the funding that non-charter district public schools receive; later it says the school received "another $1 million in private funds raised by school officials."  Anne Arundel Public Schools officials have confirmed that both these statements are false, yet the Baltimore Sun does not appear to have ever issued a correction.  Gulen schools issue press releases on PR Newswire; a recent release on AP scores of Magnolia Science Academy students appeared in news outlets in Guam, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Missouri, Texas and other locations where people would seem to have only a remote interest in achievements of students in a southern California school.  As with numerous other occasions when the press has reported on accomplishments of Gulen charter schools, no background was given on similar successes of other (non-Gulen) schools to put the information in perspective.

(5) Political/ideological proponents of charter schools  

The charter school movement has some passionate supporters who are driven by ideological principles.  An example is libertarian Spear Lancaster of Maryland, the Board President of Chesapeake Science Point, a Gulen charter that not long ago was under threat of closure.  There are also charter advocates who are motivated by a political agenda, often the desire to diminish the influence of the public school districts or even eviscerate them.  Brian Allen, chairman of the State Charter School Board in Utah, the state agency entrusted with regulating charter schools such as the Gulenist Beehive Science and Technology School, concurrently holds the position of principal lobbyist of Capitol Hill Advisors, an educational lobbying entity.  Allen’s agenda is not difficult to discern from his biography: “He was the main strategic advisor to the grass roots effort and successful vote to divide Utah’s largest school district; the first division of its kind in the history of education in the United States."  Strong ideological supporters of charter schools are often unwilling to examine concerns about charter school abuses.

(6) Naive idealists.

These individuals view Gulen as another Gandhi, and they regard their support for him as a noble service to mankind that helps combat Islamophobia.  While one must appreciate the desire of such people to work for world peace and understanding, it is regrettable that they have chosen Gulen and his movement as a vehicle.  In his 2009 PhD thesis from the University of California Santa Cruz, Joshua Hendrick has painted a far more realistic picture of the Gulen Movement as driven by a desire to form favorable economic connections and to amass political lobbying power.  Hendrick notes the irony of former Turkmen leader Saparmurat Niyazov being honored at the Gulenist Turkish Olympiads, at a time when Niyazov was universally regarded as one of the world’s worst human rights offenders.

(7) Academics for sale  
A number of university faculty members have produced publications that support the Gulen Movement and promote Fethullah Gulen as a great leader and peace advocate.  These publications masquerade as scholarly works, but nearly all are in reality essentially propaganda.  It has been difficult to assess exactly what these individuals are receiving by way of compensation, but it is known that they regularly attend Gulen conferences, where attendees and speakers receive generous honoraria.  In addition, some have gone on trips to Turkey sponsored by Gulenist organizations.  The Institute for Turkish Studies at Georgetown has received millions of dollars in grant money from Turkey, a fact that can hardly fail to influence some of its faculty.  Of course, some academics on the Gulen conference circuit may fall in the "naive idealists" category.

(8) Politicians for sale.
Gulenists have made a number of political contributions to local, state and national candidates.  Often these candidates make appearances at Gulenist events, presumably returning the favor.  The Gulen schools routinely invite politicians and state education regulatory officials to school events.  The close relation of some Gulenist administrators with the very state officials who are charged with regulating them is disturbing.

(9) Unhirables  
These are teachers and subordinate administrators who absolutely could not be hired in any other network or normal school, either because of incompetence, or lack of psychological fitness to teach, or because of some past infraction that would prevent their hiring in a normal school.  They support the school administration unconditionally, remain silent regarding any questionable practices of the administration, and in return are allowed to retain their positions.  Parents at Gulen charter schools are often baffled at the unresponsiveness of the administration when they complain about these teachers.  They do not understand that the administration carefully cultivates such teachers as part of their support network.

(10) Desperately needing job security

These are employees who for various reasons place a very high premium on job security, and are willing to keep silent and tolerate the working conditions in Gulen charter schools in exchange for it.  They are not necessarily unhirables; some may even be excellent teachers.  Their great need for job security may stem from understandable factors such as, for example, severe financial pressures, illness in the family or other personal stressors.  The current dismal job market for teachers is another contributing factor.  These employees will never speak up about the administration as they know that remaining silent is the only way to retain their positions.

(11) Lonelyhearts
These are parents and employees who are susceptible to the Gulenist seduction strategies because they are lacking in social support elsewhere.  The Gulenists target these people, especially single women or women whose husbands are absent or distant, and make them feel part of a family.  The strategy again is to recruit them into the loyal support network.  The seduction may be purely platonic, especially in the U.S., although in some countries, as Balci noted in his 2003 paper, "Gülen ... recommends that his followers respect the habits and traditions of the people who receive them, and marry local girls."  (An example is provided by 4 Turkish teachers at the Gulenist Filipino-Turkish Tolerance School in the Philippines who were arrested on suspicion of being involved in a terror organization.  They were later cleared of charges and released.  It was interesting to note in the news reports that all four had Filipino wives. )   When these individuals cease to be useful, they may be rather shocked at how quickly the Gulenists drop the social connection.

(12) Universities seeking to do community outreach

Several public universities have either hosted or sponsored Gulen conferences, including the University of Chicago, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Ohio State University, Humboldt State University, Louisiana State University, Southeastern Louisiana University, Southern University in Baton Rouge, and the University of Houston.  Questions are being raised about how the Gulen Institute came to be housed at the University of Houston, and to what extent it is funded with public money.  All these institutions undoubtedly have the best of intentions and view their activities as constructive community outreach.  Most likely they are not fully informed about the Gulen Movement's activities, both in the US and abroad.  

With (1-12), the schools are inevitably able to build up very strong support in the community.  In fact, they count on it for survival, in the event that any allegations arise.   Most of these groups  vigorously defend them whenever the school is criticized.

Bayram Balci, a scholar who has studied the Gulen Movement in Central Asia, wrote the following lines in his 2003 article “Fethullah Gülen’s Missionary Schools in Central Asia and their Role in the Spreading of Turkism and Islam" Religion, State & Society, Vol. 31, No. 2, 2003.  His description of how the Gulenists build their support network is uncannily similar to what can be observed in the US charter schools, even down to the fact that the US schools often put on very ostentatious displays of patriotism, which they then skillfully use in response to any charges regarding their connection to a foreign politico-religious movement:

“The methods used by the cemaat to recruit its pupils mean that its schools include a large number of children of the elite of the nation.  Leading businessmen and bureaucrats send their children to these schools because of the high probability that they will pass their university entrance examinations.  There is usually therefore a real harmony between parents and the teachers, whom they much appreciate. This is very important because it helps the cemaat to defend its schools, if it proves necessary to do so, against threats by the authorities.  The parents will usually lobby on behalf of the cemaat.After the first crisis in Uzbekistan the intervention of some important parents dissuaded the authorities from expelling the cemaat from the country altogether. Of course these groups are not strong enough ultimately to save the cemaat, as it was shown in Uzbekistan in September 2000.

“A strategy of seduction is employed by the cemaat not only towards parents but towards local governments too. In order to guarantee its presence in each country, the cemaat offers its support for the government’s policy and postsoviet ideology. In the schools Gülen’s followers teach the students to love the new independent state, the president, the flag, the new institutions, the new heroes who have been chosen by the new regimes and so on.  For the same purpose, the General Directorate of the high schools will have some of the president’s books translated into Turkish and distributed in Turkey.  The schools thus become ambassadors to Turkey for these Central Asian regimes, promoting their culture and history and also, of course, as mentioned above, contributing to the formation of new local elites.”

The Gulen Movement's Manipulation Tactics: an ingenious scheme of exploiting the political divides in our society

The Gulen Movement has proven remarkably adept at exploiting the political divisions in our society to further its own ends.  

The public comments on any newspaper article covering the Gulen charter schools show how they have co-opted the conservative positions on charter schools.  Pretending to be non-Gulenist American parents, they post lines about how school choice is good, teacher unions are bad for education, our schools are failing and must be rescued, and about how the charter school movement is the solution.  In this manner they suggest that anyone objecting to their charter schools is merely trying to block progress in education reform.

At the same time, they exploit the progressive view that our society has anti-Islamic elements, and constantly play on this in an attempt to make their critics look like narrow-minded bigots.  Again, pretending to be non-Gulenist American parents, they post about how any criticisms of the Gulen charter schools are simply driven by people who are against Muslims or diversity and that their concerns are therefore baseless.

The comments section of an Atlanta Journal-Constitution piece on Fulton Sunshine Academy provides just one of many examples of these tactics.

One has to acknowledge their brilliance.  They have found the perfect formula to play all of us against each other.

And while we argue among ourselves, they continue to rake in the money, and to further their political goals.

It doesn’t matter which side you are on in these arguments.  The key point is that the Gulenists adopt all these positions purely in a calculated maneuver to further their own goals.  They will change their views, even reverse them completely, any time it is beneficial to their movement.

Are we really this gullible?


Gulen Charter Schools in the United States

All these schools are publicly funded.
The schools listed here are currently operating.  For lists of schools currently being planned, and of schools that were planned but never materialized, see our companion site.

Total number of schools currently in operation: 
Number of states with schools in current operation:  

Arizona  (7)

Organization: Daisy Education Corporation   
Sonoran Science Academy -Tucson
Sonoran Science Academy - Broadway
Sonoran Science Academy - Phoenix
Sonoran Science Academy - Davis Monthan Air Force Base
Sonoran Science Academy – Ahwatukee
Sonoran Science Academy – Phoenix Metro
Paragon Science Academy  

Arkansas  (2)

Lisa Academy
Lisa Academy-North  

California   (14)

Organization: Magnolia Foundation
Magnolia Science Academy 1 - Reseda
Magnolia Science Academy 2 – Valley
Magnolia Science Academy 3 – Carson -
Magnolia Science Academy 4 – Venice
Magnolia Science Academy 5 – Hollywood
Magnolia Science Academy 6 – Palms
Magnolia Science Academy 7 - Van Nuys
Magnolia Science Academy 8 – Bell
Magnolia Science Academy - San Diego
Magnolia Science Academy - San Diego High School
Magnolia Science Academy – Santa Clara
Pacific Technology School – Orangevale
Pacific Technology School – Orange County
Organization: Willow Education
Bay Area Technology School  

Colorado  (1)

Lotus School for Excellence – Aurora

Florida   (5)

Organization: Grace Institute
Tallahassee, FL Stars Middle School
Gainesville, FL Sweet Water Branch Academy , Middle School
Jacksonville, FL River City Science Academy , Middle School
Orlando, FL Orlando Science Middle School
Tampa, FL New Springs Middle School

Georgia   (3)

Organization: Grace Institute
Alpharetta, GA Technology Enriched Accelerated High School
Alpharetta, GA Fulton Science Academy, Middle School
Alpharetta, GA Fulton Sunshine Academy, Elementary School

Illinois   (2)

Organization: Concept Schools  
Chicago Math and Science Academy
Quest Charter Academy     

Indiana    (2)

Organization: Concept Schools, Inc.
Indiana Math and Science Academy – West
Indiana Math and Science Academy – North  

Louisiana   (2)

Organization: Pelican Educational Foundation
Abramson Science and Technology. New Orleans
Kenilworth Science and Technology, Baton Rouge

Maryland   (1)

Chesapeake Science Point, Hanover  

Massachusetts    (2)

Pioneer Charter School of Science
Hampden Charter School of Science  

Michigan    (1)

Michigan Math and Science Academy

Missouri    (3)
Broadside-Frontier Math and Science School
Frontier School of Innovation
Gateway Science Academy of St. Louis

New Mexico     (1)

Albuquerque School of Excellence

New York      (3)
Syracuse Academy of Science
Buffalo Academy of Science
Rochester Academy Science School

Nevada    (2)
Coral Academy of Science - Reno
Coral Academy of Science- Las Vegas

New Jersey    (3)

Bergen Arts and Science Charter School
Central Jersey College Prep
Paterson Charter School For Science And Technology

North Carolina    (1)

Triad Math and Science Academy -

Ohio   (18)

Organization: Concept Schools, Inc.
Horizon Science Academy-Cincinnati
Horizon Science Academy-Cleveland
Horizon Science Academy-Cleveland Middle School
Horizon Science Academy-Cleveland Elementary School
Horizon Science Academy-Columbus
Horizon Science Academy- Columbus Middle School
Horizon Science Academy-Columbus Elementary School
Horizon Science Academy-Dayton
Horizon Science Academy - Denison
Horizon Science Academy - Denison Elementary School
Horizon Science Academy - Lorain
Horizon Science Academy - Springfield
Horizon Science Academy – Toledo
Horizon Science Academy – Youngstown
Noble Academy-Columbus
Noble Academy-Cleveland  

Oklahoma    (3)

Organization: Sky Foundation
Discovery School of Tulsa
Dove Science Academy- Oklahoma City
Dove Science Academy-Tulsa  

Pennsylvania    (2)
Truebright Science Academy, Philadelphia
Young Scholars of Central Pennsylvania  

Tennessee    (1)

Organization: Cosmos Foundation
Memphis School of Excellence

Texas     (37)

Organization:  Cosmos Foundation
Harmony Science Academy - Austin
Harmony School of Science - Austin
Harmony Science Academy - North Austin
Harmony School of Excellence - Austin
Harmony Science Academy - Beaumont
Harmony Science Academy - Brownsville
Harmony Science Academy - Bryan/ College Station
Harmony School of Innovation - Carrollton
Harmony Science Academy-Dallas
Harmony School of Nature and Athletics – Dallas
Harmony Science Academy - El Paso
Harmony School of Innovation - El Paso
Harmony Science Academy - Fort Worth
Harmony Science Academy - Garland
Harmony Science Academy - Grand Prairie
Harmony Science Academy - Euless
Harmony Science Academy - Houston
Harmony School of Advancement High
Harmony School of Art (and Technology) - Houston
Harmony School of Discovery
Harmony School of Excellence - Houston
Harmony School of Endeavor - Houston
Harmony Science Academy High School - Houston
Harmony School of Ingenuity
Harmony School of Innovation - Houston
Harmony Science Academy - Houston Northwest
Harmony School of Science - Houston
Harmony Science Academy - Laredo
Harmony Science Academy - Lubbock
Harmony Science Academy - Odessa
Harmony Science Academy - San Antonio
Harmony School of Innovation - San Antonio
Harmony Science Academy - Waco  

Organization: SST Schools (formerly Riverwalk Education Foundation, Inc)
School of Science and Technology Discovery - Leon Valley
School of Science and Technology-San Antonio
School of Science and Technology-Corpus Christi
School of Science and Technology – Alamo  

Utah     (1)

Beehive Science and Technology Academy -

Wisconsin    (1)

Wisconsin Career Academy -