In a precedent-setting decision, the Los Angeles Board of Education — by a six-to-nothing vote — shut down three charter schools because they had used the H-1B program to replace resident teachers with aliens from Turkey, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The three schools, called Magnolia Public Schools, all were affiliated with the Gulen Movement led by the self-exiled Turkish Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who is regarded as a cult leader by many.
There are more than 100 of these charter schools in the United States, and perhaps thousands world-wide. Gulen is conservative iman, currently at odds with the dictator of Turkey, Recep Erdogan, and devoted to undoing the secular reforms of Turkey's own George Washington, Kamel Ataturk. The schools in the United States, though frequently controversial for their financial management and their wide-spread recruitment of Turkish teachers when there is an abundance of unemployed, fully-certified U.S. teachers, do not seem to promote the Islamic religion, nor do they raise terrorism concerns.
While some other Gulen-affiliated schools have been terminated by local boards of education for other reasons, to the best of my knowledge this is the first time any of these schools have lost their charters because of their unusual hiring policies, a subject we have described in the past.
We understand that Erdogan's U.S. lawyers have filed suit against the Gulen schools in Ohio on the grounds of their excessive profits and their biased hiring practices.
Howard Blume's report in the Los Angeles Times included this summary:
The L.A. school board's vote was 6 to 0 against a five-year renewal for three schools operated by locally based Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation. Board member George McKenna abstained.
Magnolia came under widespread scrutiny after the Turkish government accused it and other U.S.-based charters with Turkish governing boards of helping foment a failed July coup in Turkey. The schools' leaders denied any involvement.
A more direct concern for L.A. Unified [the school board] was Magnolia's importing of Turkish nationals and their families for teaching and other staff positions. That past practice is the subject of an ongoing investigation by the district's inspector general.
Magnolia operates 10 campuses, including eight in L.A. Unified; the ones up for renewal were Magnolia Science Academy 1 in Reseda, Magnolia Science Academy 2 in Van Nuys and Magnolia Science Academy 3 in Carson.
Magnolia now has seven non-terminated schools, including five in Los Angeles. The licenses for charter schools have differing termination (or renewal) dates, which may lead to more votes of this kind in the future.