The largest charter chain in the United States is associated in some way or another with the Gulen movement. This is a political movement in Turkey whose leader is an imam who lives in seclusion in Pennsylvania. No one quite knows why a Turkish imam has some unspecified connection with 150 charter schools. What a country this is! What other country would pay millions of taxpayer dollars to a large chain of schools operated by foreign nationals?

James Pilcher of the Cincinnati Enquirer observed that the Concept charter schools hire an unusual number of Turkish teachers.

“Horizon Science Academy in Bond Hill has the usual classrooms, books and lessons to teach kids seeking an alternative to regular public and private schools.

“The charter school also employs seven foreign teachers, mostly from Turkey, brought to the U.S. on H-1B visas for jobs it says Ohio teachers are unqualified to fill.

“Concept Schools, founded by followers of a Turkish Islamic cleric secluded in the Poconos, already is under federal and state scrutiny for possible irregularities in teacher licensing, testing and technology contracts.

“An Enquirer investigation has found that Chicago-based Concept Schools, which runs Horizon and 17 other charter schools in Ohio, annually imports dozens of foreign teachers in numbers that far surpass any other school system in the state.

“At least 474 foreign teachers, again mostly from Turkey, have arrived at Concept’s Ohio schools between 2005 and 2013. The schools are collecting about $45 million in state funds annually to educate 6,600 children in kindergarten through high school.

“Critics say H-1B visas were designed to help companies temporarily employ highly skilled foreign workers in biotechnology, chemistry, engineering and other specialized fields – not K-12 teachers.

“The Ohio Department of Education is weighing complaints from former Concept staffers that unlicensed, foreign teachers were used.

“Ohio teachers, meanwhile, say plenty of qualified teachers are available for jobs being filled by the foreigners, especially since about 40,000 are still without teaching jobs because of the recession…..

“Academically, Concept students perform no better or worse than children at the nearly 300 other charter schools in Ohio.

“Ten of the Ohio Concept schools – more than half – received Ds on the state’s most recent performance index, a measure of how many students passed key achievement tests.

“Horizon Science Academy was one of the schools getting a D….”

“In May and June, the FBI raided 19 Concept charter schools, offices and other businesses in at least four states, including the Cincinnati Horizon and three other schools in Ohio. The raids came as part of a multistate investigation into possible financial fraud involving a federal Internet technology-funding program.

“Ohio education officials, meanwhile, are weighing whether to launch a full-scale investigation into whether Concept Schools is using unlicensed foreign teachers. At a state hearing in Columbus in July, several former Concept teachers complained that some Turkish teachers were working without the required licenses….

“One former teacher at a Cleveland Concept school, however, has said he was forced to pay tributes under the table to the movement and was even required to visit Gulen at his residence in the Poconos in northeast Pennsylvania. Mustafa Emanet told The Enquirer of being required to pay back some of his salary in cash to school administrators during his stay between 2006-09.

“Emanet was hired on an H-1B visa as an IT network administrator. But after he arrived, he said he was presented with a “secret” contract that required a tribute to the Gulen movement.

“He said his initial H-1B visa called for him to be paid about $44,000 annually. When he arrived, he was told he would be making less than $30,000 a year.

“Later as his pay rose, he said he was required to give up to 10 percent of his salary back to school administrators in cash as a “himmet,” or a tribute to Gulen and the overall movement.

“It got to the point where I was paying $900 to $1,000 a month,” said Emanet, who eventually got his green card and is now a software developer in the Cleveland area.

“Ucan dismissed Emanet’s claims as being from a “former disgruntled employee” and says there is no such pressure or secret contracts or tributes at any of the company’s schools….

“Concept has become the fastest-growing charter school operator in Ohio – growing to 18 schools from only two a decade ago. In the 2012-13 school year, Concept schools enrolled 6,329 Ohio students in kindergarten through high school, drawing about $45 million in state funding a year. Overall, it operates 31 schools in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri.

“Concept also is Ohio’s second-largest charter school operator, trailing only Akron-based White Hat Management. White Hat operates 29 schools in Ohio with an enrollment of 6,660 in the 2012-13 school year. That company received $53.2 million in public funding that year…..”