I seen my opportunities and I took 'em.
The quote is from the late Tammany Hall leader, George Washington Plunkitt, as he wrote about graft early in the last century.
That attitude seems, in three recent disclosures, to be shared by the Gulen movement's charter high schools in the United States. Fethullah Gulen, as we noted in a prior blog is — in Turkey — a major religious and political figure, but in the United States (where he lives) he is the leader of a charter school movement that frequently uses the H-1B system to root out U.S. teachers in favor of those from Turkey.
In addition, the Gulen schools appear to be all too thoroughly assimilated into the seamier side of American local politics, as these three instances indicate:
Louisiana. The source is a blog by Diane Ravitch, perhaps the nation's leading intellectual on K-12 education, and a former presidential appointee in both the Bush I and Clinton administrations. The headline and part of the text follow:
Incredible: Louisiana Renews Gulen Charter Despite Ongoing FBI Investigation
The federal probe, which the state learned of by late spring 2012, is barely mentioned in the dozens of records the state released about [Gulen-connected] Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School. The probe ... re-emerged December 11 when the FBI raided the school six days after the [state] agency renewed the Baton Rouge school's charter through the year 2019.
The search warrant ... revealed that federal authorities have been seeking financial records from Kenilworth relating to nine companies. Most of these companies are owned by individuals of Turkish descent, and seven of them have done business with the school.
Ravitch did not say so in her blog, but the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board got into terrible (and well-deserved) trouble a few years back for blatantly misusing the H-1B program to shove aside U.S. teachers, and then permit the exploitation of the Filipinos hired to replace them. (See our December 2012 blog on the subject.) In that case, the foreign teachers were on the payroll of the school board, as opposed to working for a school board contractor, such as a Gulen entity.
Illinois. G.W. Plunkitt could have identified easily with Michael Madigan, a Chicago pol fond of the Gulen schools. Plunkitt was a Tammany district leader and, as a result of that, a member of the New York State Senate. Madigan, who was elected the Democratic ward leader at the age of 27, soon thereafter also won election to the Illinois State House of Representatives, and has been the speaker thereof for most of the last 30 years. In addition, his daughter Lisa has been the (elected) attorney general of the State of Illinois for the last 10 years.
According to the website of Parents United for Responsible Education (as you might expect, PURE), a grass-roots organization in favor of public schools, there is:
A smorgasbord of Mike Madigan/Gulen school scandal!
Describing the Gulen movement as "a secretive Turkish cult behind the largest network of charter schools in the nation", PURE's blog recounts both a remarkable financial deal for the local Gulen schools (called Concept) and the interesting travel patterns of Illinois legislators. On the first point, and quoting from the Chicago Sun Times:
As the first and so far only, charter operator to benefit from the decisions of the two-year-old state agency [the Illinois State Charter School Commission], Concept is getting 33 percent more funding per pupil ... than the city school system gives other charters. (Emphasis in the original.)
As to travel:
Madigan has taken four trips in the past four years to Turkey as the guest of the Chicago-based Niagara Foundation — whose honorary president is Gulen — and the Chicago Turkish American Chamber of Commerce, according to disclosure reports the speaker has filed. ...
State records show Madigan's trips were among 32 trips [state] lawmakers took to Turkey from 2008 through 2012.
Turkey was the destination of 74 percent of all foreign trips Illinois legislators reported receiving as gifts during the five-year period.
Funded travel as a goodie for legislators was a hallmark, some 15 years ago, of the Jack Abramoff-designed lobbying campaign for the sweatshops in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Similar to the use of the Niagara Foundation to fund the travel — rather than the schools themselves — Abramoff saw to it that the travel to CNMI was funded by the sweatshops' friends in the sleazy CNMI government, not by the factories per se. The Gulen schools and the garment factories are and were users of nonimmigrant labor.
If FBI raids on schools and Illinois-Istanbul flights for state legislators are unusual, the arrangements in Texas are not.
Texas. The Gulen schools are more active in Texas than anywhere else in the nation and they appear to be doing as much as they can to keep it that way, including the lavish use of the mother's milk of American politics, campaign contributions.
Recently, Roll Call, the Capitol Hill daily, reported that the congresswoman from Houston, Sheila Jackson Lee (D), had received a bundle of $16,000 in campaign contributions in 10 checks from executives of the Gulen charter schools in Texas which call themselves Harmony Public Schools — even though they are not public schools.
She is a member of the House immigration subcommittee. Harmony, according to Roll Call, has "15 percent of its employees in the United States on H-1B work visas, most from Turkey."
Bundling checks from its executives, rather than having them make individual contributions at different times, makes the role of Harmony more obvious to the recipient, just another tiny indication that the Gulen people know how the game is played.
If Harmony is following this practice with Rep. Jackson Lee, it undoubtedly is doing so with other Texas politicos.
Rep. Jackson Lee, by the way, has such a safe seat that she really does not need campaign contributions, winning with 70 to 80 percent of the vote routinely. Hers is one of the districts jammed with Democratic voters that were drawn by the Texas legislature in the latest gerrymander. The lines benefit her but are hard on other Democrats seeking House seats in adjacent districts.