Public data recently unearthed show that the Dove and Discovery charter schools in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Okla., both associated with the conservative Islamic cult of cleric Fethullah Gulen, spent an estimated $4.5 million in public schools' money on alien (mostly Turkish) teachers in the years 2012 through 2018.
That money could have been used to hire Oklahoma teachers. Most public schools and most charter schools do not go overseas to recruit teachers.
The Center for Immigration Studies' estimate is based on U.S. Department of Labor records, as shown at Myvisajobs.com. This dataset shows all the H-1B applications approved for U.S. employers, including Dove in Tulsa and Oklahoma City, and Discovery in Oklahoma City. The schools are privately managed, but almost totally funded by tax dollars.
The controversial federal H-1B program allows employers to hire aliens of their choice for U.S. jobs when they so choose, with little governmental supervision. The charter school program, which operates under state law, allows private organizations to run schools with public school funds.
According to those records, Dove Science Academy in Tulsa hired 16 H-1B workers in the years 2012 through 2018; the same organization in Oklahoma City hired 15 H-1Bs in the same period, and the Discovery School of Tulsa hired 12. Most of these had teachers' job titles.
Each of the approved applications carried a promised salary, and these mostly were in the $32,000 to $35,000 range, though one principal was to be paid $55,030. Since H-1B certifications run for three years, CIS assumed that each hired teacher spent the full three years on the payroll and was paid the promised rate for the full three years, but got no raises or pay cuts. This produced the following H-1B payrolls for the schools:
- Dove Science Academy (Tulsa): $1,645,160
- Dove Science Academy (Okla. City): $1,609,461
- Discovery School (Tulsa): $1,295,760
- Total: $4,550,381
These are estimated salary payments only; were payroll taxes and fringe benefits to be included, the total would be well over $5.5 million.
Whereas in Oklahoma schools, generally, 98 percent of the teachers are state certified, only 65 percent of them at the Discovery School were; that school also had more pupils per teacher, 18.1, compared to the state average of 16.1
The Dove Schools were found to have paid excessive rents to another Gulen-associated entity in an investigation by the Oklahoma State Auditor and Inspector, as we reported earlier. Some Dove funds were then transferred to other Gulen operations.
Nationwide, the Gulen movement has started perhaps 100 charter schools, and many of them have been charged with siphoning off public-school funds through intricate relationships with other Gulen entities, as "60 Minutes", among others, has documented.
While the Gulen movement is non-violent in this country, it is regarded as a terrorist organization by the authoritarian Turkish government. Gulen and the president of Turkey, Recep Erdogan were once allies, but that is no longer the case.
Observers say that the Gulen cult appears to want to return Turkey to the practices and thought patterns of the Ottoman Empire of 100 years ago.
I am grateful to CIS intern James Lochte for his research assistance.